Five potential Fabinho replacements for Liverpool this summer | THT Opinions

The Hard Tackle takes an intimate look at the holding midfielders Liverpool can sign to replace Fabinho.

It was inevitable that Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool would revamp their midfield this summer. The Reds have lost key players to departures and injuries the last few years, and the dismal 2022/23 campaign showcased that it was time to hit the reset button on the current roster.

The task was made easier following the departures of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Naby Keita. This left the Reds with just Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, Stefan Bajcetic, and Curtis Jones to don the central midfield roles.

While Harvey Elliott has been used in the position before, the youngster is far more effective out wide. Add to it Thiago Alcantara’s injuries and Henderson and Fabinho’s fall off in form, and it was just a matter of time before reinforcements arrived.

It proved true as Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai both arrived to much fanfare. The duo will not just future proof the position but also add considerable dynamism to the roster. It is arguably a trait that has been missing from Liverpool’s game since the departure of Philippe Coutinho.

With Henderson and Fabinho likely to now move to Saudi Arabia, the Reds will need further additions before the season kicks off on August 13th. Of the two, it is the latter that needs an urgent replacement, given that he is the lone senior number six in the squad.

Mac Allister is the ball carrier that the Reds craved, while Szoboszlai is more of an explosive addition who can function as a box to box midfielder. With the Reds also looking at an ageing defence marshalled by Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, the prospect of deploying their new midfield duo sans a destroyer to mop up behind them is asking for trouble.

Losing Fabinho without bringing in a replacement is risky as it will upset the balance of the playing XI and subject the defence to being exposed by opposition attackers. A quality number six who can not just stop opposition attacks in its tracks but also win the ball back would trigger the Liverpool counter offensive, bringing all the forward players into play with great effect.

In order to execute their best attacking setup, a defensive midfielder becomes necessary.  The Reds cannot just sign any player but will need someone who can go straight into the playing XI and make the position his own. Fabinho was a game changing addition to the Reds back in 2018 and it is now time for Klopp and co. to repeat the trick.

Losing the Brazilian does open up one non homegrown spot that the Reds can fill giving them more options. The Hard Tackle looks at some of the players they should consider to aid Jurgen Klopp’s rebuild.

The Dream Addition: Moises Caicedo (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Caicedo is not just one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League but is an experienced player, well acquainted with the demands of the Premier League. Just 21, the Ecuadorian ace will more or less future-proof the position for years to come and add much dynamism to the Reds’ roster.

His ability to not just break up attacks but also carry the ball from the back and connect to the attackers suits Liverpool to a tee. A solid technician, he is tailor made to elevate Klopp’s Liverpool 2.0 to new heights.

Caicedo and Mac Allister have worked well together at The Amex and the former should have little problem in reprising that role should he move to Anfield. More so, he is also capable of playing at right-back, a trait that could prove to be Trent Alexander-Arnold’s salvation in a midfield role.

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Towards the end of the 2022/23 season, we often saw the Englishman drop into the midfield and impress as an inverted right-back. Signing Caicedo will give Alexander-Arnold a shield to protect him when he moves into central areas, making life easier for the centre-backs as well.

Caicedo can also cover for Alexander-Arnold if Klopp opts to play a back four, aiding the Englishman to push forward on the flank without worrying about defending. Some of Alexander-Arnold’s best performances were aided by Henderson’s ability to cover him on the wing and Caicedo is perfectly capable of playing the same role.

In many ways, Caicedo would be the perfect addition for Jurgen Klopp and his new look Liverpool side. However, Chelsea are in advanced talks with the player, and it could prove to be too late for the Reds to make a move. The youngster is also a target for Arsenal.

More so, Caicedo is unlikely to come cheap. Brighton could also play hardball with the Reds given that they were able to land Mac Allister on the cheap. Liverpool, have in the past shown themselves willing to pay what it takes to land their top targets. Should they manage to beat Chelsea to Caicedo, he could prove to be a transformative signing along the lines of Virgil van Dijk back in 2018.

The Prospect: Romeo Lavia (Southampton)

The 19-year-old is coming off a solid season at Southampton and has shown immense potential. Liverpool are linked with the Belgian but have shown little willingness to match the Saints’ asking price. Recently, Barcelona and Arsenal have also shown interest in the youngster. But a move will not materialise for Barcelona.

Lavia is a solid tackler and reads the game well. He is adept at winning the ball back and is an energetic presence in the middle of the park. His ability to also dribble the ball forward can help kick-start counter attacks and catch opposition players out of position.

However, the Belgian is far from the finished article and is more of a long term project. Liverpool would have been better served adding him to a squad that also contained Fabinho, giving Lavia the chance to learn and develop under a mentor.

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Asking him to replace the Brazilian is a difficult task and not something that could happen overnight. Also, with Bajcetic coming through, bringing in a more experienced player makes more sense. After all, his energy needs to be counterbalanced by the ability to read the game and make solid decisions.

Signing Lavia could prove to be a promising enterprise should Liverpool also bring in a senior player in the same role. Adding the duo to Szoboszlai and Mac Allister would more or less future proof the midfield roster at Anfield.

Lavia will also add to the club’s home grown quota, something that is a priority at the moment. Given that he will also cost less than Caicedo, the 19-year-old will certainly be a name on Jorg Schmatdke’s list.

The Fabinho regen: Florentino Luis (Benfica)

Fabinho was a key player in Liverpool’s success and fit Jurgen Klopp’s gameplan to a tee. So the prospect of perhaps adding a younger, faster version of him to the squad is something that the Reds should not dismiss.

The Portuguese ace is a solid tackler and can win the ball back with ease. An excellent passer, he is also a good reader of the game and can make quick decisions on the fly. A mobile player who also has pace to burn, Luis is just 23 and can be shaped into a world class number six. His traits compliment that of the other additions Liverpool have made and will provide the defence with a shield they can rely on.

Five potential defensive midfielders Liverpool should pursue this summer.
Benfica’s midfielder Florentino Luis (C) would be a solid addition. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)

More so, Luis can also carry the ball forward and cover long distances with ease. He is also slightly shorter than Fabinho and can prove useful in aerial duels.This can help the Reds win the second ball more often than not in the middle of the park and retain possession of the football.

It can be argued that Luis can slot in right into the Liverpool midfield with minimal fuss. His energy and ability should also rub off on Klopp in his high octane system. At just 23, the Portuguese star is yet to hit his peak and could prove to be a solid addition for years to come.

However, Benfica are strong negotiators and hold the aces when it comes to negotiations. His €120 million release clause will require significant investment and a lot will come down to whether the Reds are willing to take a punt. Meanwhile, recent reports have also linked him with Barcelona and Arsenal.

The wildcard: Joao Palhinha (Fulham)

The Portuguese star is not a long term option nor the biggest name on the list. However, he has experience in the Premier League and showed himself a reliable option in a midfield scrap.

While he is excellent in winning the ball back and taking other defensive actions, the 28-year-old is limited carrying the ball forward and making attacking contributions. Palhinha has no problem transitioning to play as a centre-back, which could help the Reds play with three at the back.

Palhinha also stands at 1.90m tall and could prove to be a physically formidable presence in the middle of the park. The Liverpool midfield have been outmuscled badly in recent times and the likes of Palhinha will certainly add some steel.

West Ham United are also eyeing him as a viable replacement for Declan Rice, potentially raising the asking price for his signature. Given his limitations, it is debatable if the Reds are ready to splash the cash to secure his services.

A multi-pronged addition: Manu Kone (Borussia Monchengladbach)

The young Frenchman has established himself as one of the best young defensive midfielders in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach over the last two seasons.

He was linked with the Reds earlier this summer. But interest has cooled since he limped off for France in the Under-21 European Championship. An athletic player who covers much ground and is capable of breaking up play, Kone can also carry the ball forward and has a certain flair with the football at his feet.

Kone has played in several formations and is capable of dropping deeper to act as an auxiliary centre-back if needed. This could prove decisive when Trent Alexander-Arnold pushes forward, forcing the Reds to be vigilant on the counter.

Physically well built and with the technical ability to boot, Kone has the makings of a midfield tour de force. He also is capable of striking the ball well and can have a pop or two at goal when needed. Gladbach are ready to sell for the right price this summer and given their financial condition and Kone might prove obtainable compared to the other names on the list. 

Liverpool Sporting Director Jorg Schmadtke’s son Nils Schmadtke took over as the Gladbach Sporting Director earlier this summer, potentially greasing the wheels for a summer switch to Anfield. While it could make negotiations easier, Liverpool will still need to fork out the cash for Kone.

A lot could depend on the severity of the injury Kone suffered this summer. The 22-year-old is also close friends with Khephren Thuram, another player on the Reds’ radar. With Liverpool needing two midfielders at least, the duo will certainly add youth and energy to Klopp’s roster. Time will tell whether the French stars will be part of the Liverpool rebuild.

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