Home » Manchester City FC » Liverpool and Man City have become defined by key area, but Fabinho shows why Reds dominate


The two dominant forces of English football have upgraded the holding midfield department in the past two years, with Fabinho moving to Liverpool 12 months before Rodri made the switch from Atletico Madrid to Manchester City. The former was signed to replace Emre Can and to allow Jordan Henderson to move further forward, while the latter was introduced as Fernandinho's heir.

However, the way in which the two have been integrated from a tactical perspective has been very different.

Fabinho and Rodri aren't very similar to Henderson and Fernandinho, with the latter two initially starting their respective careers as energetic box-to-box midfielders. They were able to perform largely because of their mobility and dynamism, having been able to cover excessive ground while their teammates attacked further up the field.

Over time, as Fabinho has ousted Henderson as Liverpool's holding presence, the Reds adjusted the way in which they behaved without the ball. Although the Brazilian is cool and composed, arguably his biggest weakness is his lack of pace.

He can't cover ground as relentlessly as Henderson, so Klopp altered the pressing of his side to mask his flaws. Rather than pressing as ferociously as they have in previous years, Liverpool continued to close down opponents but appeared more inclined to retreat when required.

That has prevented Fabinho from being exposed when trying to manage counterattacks, as he's typically surrounded by his teammates when aiming to regain possession.

Rodri, on the other hand, has been deployed by Pep Guardiola almost as though he's Fernandinho. The City boss has continued to attack with countless players, with the expectation being that Rodri is capable enough to stop counters from materialising even though - similar to Fabinho - he's not as mobile as the man he's replaced.

Liverpool already had the title secured when football was placed on pause in March, with a 25-point gap held over City; Guardiola's men had found the net twice more by that stage, but they had conceded 10 more goals than the Reds.

A wide variety of factors have impacted the title race this year but should some of the blame be attributed to Guardiola's usage of Rodri in comparison to Klopp's usage of Fabinho?

One has recognised what his midfielder is good and bad at before adjusting accordingly, while the other has continued to play in almost exactly the same way. Fabinho is now understood to be amongst the best in Europe in his position, whereas the praise for Rodri has been much quieter.

Defensive stability has been one of the most decisive factors behind Liverpool's title win over City this season but ultimately, as well as placing an emphasis on defenders, perhaps more of the spotlight should be placed on how each manager has adapted to his holding midfielder.