Why Liverpool's first transfer priority this summer MUST be a new No.6

The signing of Fabinho in the summer of 2018 may not have been Liverpool's most high-profile transfer of the Jurgen Klopp era, but the importance of it is almost unrivalled.

Alisson and Virgil van Dijk deserve to be at the top of the list, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane also major additions, but the Brazilian's influence was vast during his five-year stay.

For too long, Liverpool had lacked an elite No.6 to sit in front of the defence and master the understated aspects of the game, even though Jordan Henderson tried to make his mark there. He had good games, but was never the answer.

Fabinho nailed it to perfection being called a "lighthouse" because of his ability to see everything going on around him, which was a perfect analogy.

It is a position that doesn't always get spoken about as the most important, perhaps due to its unspectacular nature, but it's hard to enjoy great success without a top-quality player in that role.

While Liverpool's 2023/24 season was an excellent one until it unravelled in these final weeks, the lack of a world-class No.6 has ultimately been problematic, hampering their hopes of going all the way in the Premier League.

Liverpool's lack of a No.6 counts against them

There was a point when Wataru Endo was doing a magnificent job there, rightly earning cult hero status and playing a big role in the Reds' quadruple push, but his limitations have been exposed and his legs have tired.

At 31, the Japanese international doesn't represent the future at the base of Liverpool's midfield, and if he does stay this summer, it has to be as a squad player.

As a comparison, Fabinho averaged 2.1 and 2.2 tackles per game in the league in 2018/19 and 2019/20 respectively, whereas Endo's tally this term is 1.6. Similarly, 1.2 and 1.1 interceptions per match were achieved by the former Reds hero in those seasons, compared to 0.6 by the Japanese.

Wataru Endo

Wataru Endo

These may not be hugely contrasting, but fine margins make all the difference, which is why Liverpool's most glorious period under Klopp included Fabinho as one of the first names on the team sheet.

The signing of Endo was a curious one, and while he was considered a bargain at £16m, arriving as a 30-year-old immediately raised question marks.

Midfield problems symbolise errant transfer strategy

By way of comparison, Adam Wharton was available for £18m, but Liverpool passed over him - despite being 'long-term admirers' and signed Endo instead, with the former now excelling at Crystal Palace and being linked with a move to Anfield, this time for £60m.

Granted, Wharton isn't an out-and-out defensive midfielder for Palace, but opting for Endo over a young player like him sums up the Reds' approach in the transfer market, which has become less convincing since the exit of Michael Edwards first time round.

Brighton ace Carlos Baleba is another being backed to join Liverpool once Arne Slot comes in, but again, he would have represented a more shrewd option than Endo last year, because he is only 20.


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He has completed 92.1% of his passes in the Premier League for the Seagulls, as well as averaging 1.4 tackles per game across 25 appearances in the competition.

Alexis Mac Allister has chopped and changed between the No.6 and No.8 roles, but it has been abundantly clear that he is far more effective in the latter.

A lack pace has been an issue playing deeper, with opposition players ghosting past the Argentine, and he doesn't possess the natural defensive brain that a Fabinho or a Rodri does there.

In fairness, Endo and Mac Allister have both enjoyed good moments in defensive midfield this season, particular the former, but neither can be seen as the solution.

We now have just one more game remaining with Klopp at the helm, which is both hard to believe and extremely sad.

Liverpool crying out for a No.6

The German's expected incoming replacement Slot will already be considering new signings to kick off the new era at Anfield, looking to bring in players who are ideal for his system.

A top-level No.6 has to be right at the top of his shopping list if he wants Liverpool to kick on next season, even though other areas of the pitch are also key, such as centre-back.

This current Reds team has certain comparisons with the pre-Fabinho side of 2016-2018, with a huge amount of quality but not enough control and balance to get through games on a consistent basis.

Arne Slot Tactics

What the Brazilian did was provide perfect cover for the two centre-backs, as well as allowing the likes of Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum freedom ahead of him, not to mention using the ball in subtle but effective fashion, breaking the lines and proving to be press-resistant.

He turned Liverpool from being an excellent side whose matches were consistently entertaining, to one of the most disciplined and ruthless teams in English football history in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

A similar figure simply has to come in this summer, although finding the right player will be tough.

Hopefully, it is something the likes of Edwards and Richard Hughes can mastermind, heralding the start of an exciting new period under Slot.

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