Fabinho may deserve transfer decision
During the dark, difficult early days at Anfield, it seemed at times implausible Fabinho would reach a century of Liverpool appearances.
But as he notched the significant landmark here against West Bromwich Albion, it prompted a question.
What would Jurgen Klopp do without his versatile Brazilian?
Having ultimately cemented his reputation as one of the world’s finest defensive midfielders, Fabinho has, without any fuss or complaint, seamlessly converted into a similarly impressive centre-back following the loss of both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez to long-term injuries.
It’s just as well. Joel Matip’s latest injury issue – which will once more raise questions over his durability – left Fabinho again as the senior member of a centre-back partnership alongside 19-year-old Rhys Williams, making only his second Premier League outing.
Nat Phillips, another Academy graduate, has the same level of top-flight experience, while teenager Billy Koumetio is untried at this level.
While the decision on whether the Reds change tack and pursue a centre-back in the January transfer window could depend on the severity of Matip’s injury, another aspect may be to help shoulder Fabinho’s responsibility in the New Year.
But regardless of what transpires, one matter is beyond dispute. The Brazilian has become arguably Liverpool’s most important player.
Mane in mood as Salah struggles
No wonder Sadio Mane wasn’t very happy.
The Senegalese appeared less than impressed when, last weekend, he was given the hook after barely an hour of Liverpool’s record-breaking win at Crystal Palace.
Jurgen Klopp shrugged off any suggestion of discontent, quite rightly pointing out no player should welcome being substituted.
Having ended a nine-game barren run with a thunderous strike, Mane clearly felt he had rediscovered his scoring touch.
And it took him only 12 minutes to underline the point here when, having been picked out by a fine lofted pass by Joel Matip, the forward controlled the ball on his chest away from West Brom defender Semi Ajayi and thrashed home a volley with his right foot.
That the floodgates didn’t open wasn’t through a lack of effort from Mane, who constantly harassed the Baggies backline and, in the first half in particular, created plentiful space for the lively Andy Robertson to overlap into.
On the other flank, Mohamed Salah suffered a fitful afternoon, giving plenty of opportunity to run at the defence but too often hounded out and lacking the sharpness at key moments, ending a sequence of five successive scoring appearances.
Salah can be afforded the occasional blip. And any concerns about Mane have now been emphatically banished.
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Jones learns the hard way
This was a chastening experience for Curtis Jones.
With Liverpool utterly dominant in the first half, the 19-year-old completed more passes than the whole of the West Brom team combined.
After the break, though, matters became far more testing as the visitors ramped up the intensity just as the Reds slackened horribly.
So it was unwise for Jones, bursting with trademark self-belief, to overplay near his own area when a simple ball out of defence was required, leading to the needless concession of a corner from which the Baggies levelled.
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A little arrogance is no bad thing, and has indeed helped accelerate the youngster’s development into becoming a first-team regular. In this instance, though, he was betrayed by his lack of experience in game management – this, don’t forget, only a seventh Premier League start.
It wasn’t the fault of the teenager the Reds failed to properly defend the set-piece. But such errors can so often prove costly at this exalted level.
Jones being Jones, he won’t let this affect him. Instead, he has already demonstrated he can learn from any setbacks.