Liverpool will still be brewing with confidence after their 3-1 win over Arsenal at the weekend.
Mohamed Salah’s brace might have stolen all the headlines but another standout performer week in week out easily went unnoticed.
Despite being European champions, Liverpool have a squad full of divisive players. Some are undervalued and some are simply misunderstood. There are a number who tick both boxes and one such player is Fabinho.
The Brazilian doesn’t score goals. He doesn’t assist them either. He doesn’t play 70-yard cross-field passes that are shown on the match of the day highlight and he’s not the sort to dance past four opposition players before picking out a team-mate.
Fabinho has taken some time to get used to the cut and thrust of the Premier League. After joining from Monaco he had his critics after struggling to assert himself and started just eight matches in the first half of last season behind Georginio Wijnaldum (16), James Milner (12) and Jordan Henderson (8).
Since then, however, he has started the second-most (15), behind only Wijnaldum.
Fabinho made more tackles (7) than any other player on the pitch during Liverpool 4-1 Norwich.
Those long legs doing work again. ? pic.twitter.com/7HUop85mVG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 9, 2019
In Liverpool’s opening day win over Norwich he was the key man in the middle of the park, making seven tackles, more than any other player on the pitch.
It’s obvious why his contribution to the team can go unnoticed. He’s not one to steal the show. The fact he doesn’t shows what a magnificent job he’s doing. Because, well, he isn’t there to do any of that.
He’s in the Liverpool team to break up play, quell potential counter-attacking situations and to keep the opposition penned in so that the Reds can do their thing.
A rather encouraging stat also emerged in the wake of Liverpool’s victory over Arsenal.
His two tackles made during the game meant Fabinho has made more tackles than any ‘big six’ midfielder in the Premier League this season (10). (via Squawka)
At Liverpool, he has also won the second-most duels (16), alongside Firmino.
The same could be said for Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic.
While the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount(deservedly) have been stealing the Blues headlines, the midfielder’s performances have not gotten the proper recognition for his efforts.
Under predecessor Maurizio Sarri, Kovacic was restrained to a more defensive role, but since completing his £40m switch from Real Madrid, the central midfielder has been afforded greater license to surge further up the field.
One that has started yielding positive results Lampard will be licking his lips for.
If you were asked the Premier League’s top ten current dribblers, a host of 20 names would probably be mentioned and Kovacic won’t even come to mind.
Well yes, maybe it’s because he’s in a League of his own.
Mateo Kovačić's dribbling in the Premier League so far this season:
• 11 attempted
• 11 completed
• 100% success rate
No player has completed more… and he hasn't even failed one yet. ? pic.twitter.com/OKSLBa9nw0
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 26, 2019
Yes, there’s a new dribbling king in town. While Dani Ceballos of Arsenal has been raved about, it would seem Kovacic has been just about right on par with the Spaniard’s output.
Mateo Kovačić has completed more take-ons whilst maintaining a 100% success rate than any other player in the Premier League so far this season.
The next perfect dribbler? Dani Ceballos.
cc: Real Madrid pic.twitter.com/4wc0mqNABF
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 27, 2019
It’s easy for the poster boys of each clubs to always dominate the headlines and earn all the plaudits.
Sometimes, a closer look tells a different story and shows how some “unpopular” figures easily have one of the most influence in their clubs.
Mateo Kovacic and Fabinho easily fit this bill and the fate of both clubs this season will be largely determined by the consistency of their performances.