Jürgen Klopp just confirmed Fabinho plan as $45m 'guess' pays off for 'Liverpool 2.0'


Fab was for so long the insurance we had more or less in midfield," Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said after Fabinho, one of the biggest contributors to his team's Premier League and Champions League triumphs, sealed a $52m (£40m/€46m) move to Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad in the summer. "He always gave us the freedom to play all the fancy stuff.

"He was involved in that from time to time as well but loved to be the hoover for the team, loved to do all the dirty work for the team.

"Together with the center-halves, when both full-backs were flying right and left, all the strikers, all the midfielders somewhere and then just Fab and the two center-halves when it looked, 'Oh OK, if we lose the ball, there's still a few players at least who can sort that.' And he was massive."

As Fabinho headed for the exit door, it seemed inevitable that Liverpool would spend big on a direct replacement to fill the clear hole that had been left in the squad, but that didn't materialize.

As it turned out, the only defensive midfielder who arrived was Wataru Endō, a 30-year-old who had captained Japan at the 2022 World Cup but boasted little pedigree at club level. Somewhat predictably, the $21m (£16m/€19m) addition has been used as a rotational back-up rather than a starter, making Klopp's XI for just one of the six Premier League games since his arrival.

Instead, Klopp has favored $45m (£35m/€40m) signing Alexis Mac Allister, a predominant number eight asked to serve as the six. Mac Allister had some experience of playing in a deeper role at former club Brighton, but that was typically alongside an expert ball-winner in Moisés Caicedo. Now, he is the primary defensive presence in the midfield.

If we as a team defend well, he can play definitely the six, definitely," Klopp explained in his most recent press conference on Thursday (via liverpoolfc.com). "Did I know that before? I had a guess, but I was not sure because I didn’t know exactly how all the other boys will do defending and because we defend more compact and better than we did in our bad phases last year.

"We have small spaces and then it’s really, really good because he sees the situations really well, and from there we have an extra footballer on the pitch and it’s really cool."

Much as a weary Fabinho suffered from a lack of support last season, with the ageing pair of Jordan Henderson and Thiago and the inexperienced Harvey Elliott often stationed ahead of him, Mac Allister is benefitting from the excellent defensive contribution of Curtis Jones and marathon man Dominik Szoboszlai, making a risky system viable.

While everyone was scrambling to guess the Fabinho replacement, it has become clear that Klopp had other plans. His comments on Mac Allister appear to confirm a more collective approach to the defensive workload, gaining an additional ball-player as a result.

Admittedly, in the early part of last summer's transfer window, figures at Liverpool pointed out that there was a 'dearth of pre-peak, elite-level options' available on the market (via This is Anfield), so you might assume that the Reds intend to recruit a long-term, specialist holding midfield solution next year, when the landscape should be different.

But it may be that they're trialing a different solution first, moving towards a collective model of defending rather than relying on a firefighter like Fabinho to provide the 'insurance' in a state of chaos.

And it's games like Brighton away, the test in store at the weekend, that will test whether the brave approach of using Mac Allister as the six is viable over the course of a full season, provided he remains in that position against his former club.

Klopp took an educated 'guess' in redeploying the Argentine, and his team's strong return of 16 points from seven matches suggests it's working out so far. If the success continues, then perhaps 'Liverpool 2.0', as the manager has dubbed it, will embrace a new midfield model full-time.

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