Jurgen Klopp is under no pressure to rush Fabinho into his Liverpool team
With two-thirds of Liverpool's midfield failing to shine in Saturday's battling 2-1 win at Leicester City, it was almost inevitable that there would be a clamour from some supporters for summer recruit Fabinho to be brought into the side sooner rather than later.
Jurgen Klopp, however, is seemingly in no hurry to throw his £43.7 million signing from Monaco in at the deep end, and he's absolutely right not to do so. The Brazilian can't even make the substitutes bench at present, let alone the starting lineup. Eyebrows have been raised at that, but it makes perfect sense.
Klopp can only name 18 players, and he has six midfield players competing for three spots -- seven if you count the versatile Swiss army knife Xherdan Shaqiri, who might prove to be a useful midfield option based on his showings in preseason. They can't all be involved, so someone has to miss out, and it's hardly surprising that it's the man least familiar with the system.
Why should Fabinho just walk straight into a side that reached the Champions League final last season? What has he done to deserve a spot ahead of James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum or the skipper Jordan Henderson? The answer is nothing. That's why he's also behind Adam Lallana and Naby Keita. For the moment, at least.
Just because Fabinho cost a lot of money doesn't mean he has to play immediately, and just because he isn't playing immediately shouldn't make anybody question the wisdom of the signing. There are some managers out there who would not be brave enough to sit such an expensive signing, but price tags are irrelevant to Klopp.
There is plenty of time for Fabinho to make his mark, and being held back until he is ready will do him no harm. In fact, it should help him. It certainly helped others, including Andrew Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Reds are in a strong position currently, which means that Klopp has the luxury of being patient with Fabinho. That patience paid off last year with both Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom needed time to learn the intricacies and nuances of Klopp's system before they were unleashed on unsuspecting opponents.
Robertson may have been ready long before his opportunity eventually came along, but the newly announced Scotland captain had to wait until Alberto Moreno suffered an ankle injury in December before getting a run in the team. He's been an automatic selection ever since.
Oxlade-Chamberlain's situation was a little different. He was eased into it gradually with some appearances off the bench and the occasional start in cup competitions. Initially he was mostly deployed in the somewhat less complex wide position, but when he was fully versed in Liverpool's high press, he was given the opportunity to play in the midfield role he had always wanted. He was positively thriving until suffering an injury in March.
Perhaps like Robertson, Fabinho will also have to bide his time and wait for someone to get injured. That's a throwback to how it used to be when the Reds were at their most successful back in the '70s and '80s. New signings would often not be seen for months, sometimes even years.
Fabinho needn't worry about that as the game has since changed dramatically. Clubs no longer go through an entire season using only 14 or 15 players and squad rotation ensures there is always an opportunity for players to impress.
Why are some supporters so keen for him to be thrown in there now, though? Liverpool have won all four games and are currently top of the table. There is no need to upset the balance by including a player who by his manager's admission is not yet completely familiar with the playing style.
The impatience probably stems from the bewildering lack of regard some supporters have for Henderson, who on Monday signed a new long-term contract with the club. You only have to look at the mixed reaction to that news on social media to see the lack of respect some have for the 28-year-old. The replies to this blog will no doubt also reflect it.
When Fabinho joined, there was glee in some quarters that this would surely see Henderson replaced. Any time Liverpool lose a game or produce a below-par performance, the finger of blame is usually pointed at Henderson first. The skipper has the full support of his manager and teammates, but there is an element of the fan base that he just doesn't seem to be able to win over.
Frankly, it's ridiculous. To listen to some Liverpool fans, you'd think Christian Poulsen or Salif Diao were still patrolling in front of their back four. Henderson is a top player and it's bizarre that some can't see it.
It's true that he did not play particularly well against Leicester. Neither did Wijnaldum, but they were not alone as it was a below-par team performance. If either Henderson or Wijnaldum are to be dropped for Liverpool's next fixture though, it will almost certainly be Keita -- not Fabinho -- who will come in.
Keita arrived at the same time as Fabinho and both played a full part in preseason. When the meaningful action got underway, though, it was Keita who got the start and Fabinho was left in the stands. Keita's transition to life at Anfield was much smoother due to his two previous clubs, Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig, both playing a similar high-tempo style to Liverpool.
Fabinho's adaptation has been understandably slower. Klopp referenced in preseason how he was often playing too deep because that's what he'd been used to at Monaco. Klopp can't have that because Liverpool's style without the ball is so complex that if one player is not in the right spot when the rest are pressing in unison, the whole thing can fall apart and holes appear everywhere.
Henderson knows the system like the back of his hand. So does Wijnaldum. Both know exactly where they need to be at any given time. Fabinho is still learning but he wasn't signed to sit in the stands, and when he gets up to speed the competition for that No. 6 spot in the side will be as intense as with any other position in the team.
Following this international break, the games will come thick and fast for Liverpool. Fabinho will get his opportunity soon enough, but securing a regular place in the side will likely take considerably longer. That's exactly how it should be.