Rio Ferdinand on tactical change behind Fabinho’s defensive masterclass for Liverpool against Ajax
Rio Ferdinand believes a lower defensive line helped Fabinho impress for Liverpool against Ajax.
The Brazilian – who is naturally a defensive midfielder – filled in for the injured Virgil van Dijk in Liverpool’s 1-0 Champions League win against Ajax.
The 26-year-old was very impressive alongside Joe Gomez, as the Reds kept a much-needed clean sheet in Amsterdam.
In the latter stages of the first-half, Fabinho made a sensational goal-line clearance after David Neres had lobbed Adrian, to keep the score at 1-0 following Nicolas Tagliafico’s own goal.
The versatile Liverpool man filled in at centre-back earlier in the season in a 2-0 victory at Chelsea, that time alongside van Dijk, with Gomez and Joel Matip both absent on that day.
The former Monaco man also dropped back into defence for a 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich in Liverpool’s glorious 2018/19 Champions League campaign.
He is now fairly experienced in a back four, having also played some games at right-back for Monaco, but Ferdinand – who played at centre-half himself – believes he needs to show it on a consistent basis this season.
With van Dijk expected to miss the majority of the campaign, at least, he should have plenty of chances to do just that.
Ferdinand said on BT Sport: “And he’s probably been the best player in all of those games (where he’s played centre-back) – especially the Bayern and Chelsea games – he was probably the standout defender on both of them occasions.
“This guy is a top operator, he played at right-back for a lot of the time when he was at Monaco as well, so he knows how to defend.
“He’s gonna be judged over the course of the season, not over a couple of performances at centre-back, and now he’s got the opportunity to play there for a sustained amount of time and he’s going to have to show it on a consistent basis.
“(In the) first-half, he made two or three challenges on the edge of the box to stop attacks and he has read the game really well today, but it’s about him and Gomez starting to form a partnership.”
He added: “It’s a difficult situation, the problem he’s got is he’s filling the boots of one of he best defenders in the world, if not the best, at the moment.
“It’s huge pressure, not only for him but for Gomez as well – he’s an actual defender and he’s going to be looked at and expected to lead that back four now.
“Can he do it? That’s the question that’s going to be asked.
“What’s helped him is they’re not playing that crazy offside rule, if they step back and give him that bit more time, the whole back four looks more comfortable.
“He has that time to assess and see things rather than being too much on the front foot with all your momentum going forward.
“He’s got a better chance of showing real quality in that position.”
With Matip potentially being out for Saturday’s visit of Sheffield United, Fabinho and Gomez could be chosen by Jurgen Klopp again.
Then for the Reds, it’s another Champions League clash, with Midtjylland coming to Anfield on Tuesday.