Liverpool are in the race to sign Denis Zakaria, Sky Germany reported this week, and the Switzerland international’s performances this season suggest his arrival could have a big impact on Fabinho.
According to Sky Germany (Saturday 14/03, 14:24), the Reds are facing competition from Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid in the race for Zakaria. The same source claim Borussia Monchengladbach value their star midfielder at €50m (£46.2m), which is a similar price to the one Liverpool paid for Fabinho back in 2018 (BBC). So how does Zakaria stack up against the former Monaco man?
Immovable object… Fabinho’s first job is to of course to shield the back four, but since returning from ankle ligament damage the 26 year-old has been a step slow and the amount of players dribbling past him with the ball is definitely a concern. While the two men are completely level for tackles each game, both averaging 2.1 per top-flight match, Fabinho is dribbled past a whopping 1.7 times per game, while Zakaria only gets beat 0.8 times per match. The Swiss star also makes more interceptions, clearances and blocks and commits less fouls, suggesting his positioning and reading of the game may be superior to Anfield’s number two.
Unstoppable force… Driving forward with the ball, Zakaria is also extremely impressive. Standing at 6 foot 2 he is a difficult man to stop once he gets moving, boasting two dribbles per game in the Bundesliga. Fabinho meanwhile beats a player with the ball just 0.4 times per match. The Brazilian also has less goals, assists and shots, suggesting Zakaria is a far greater force in the final third. The Monchengladbach man registers 0.12 expected goals per 90 minutes compared to a measly 0.01 per 90 from Fabinho.
Ability on the ball… The one area Fabinho seems to have the advantage over Zakaria is safety in possession, as the Liverpool ace takes less unsuccessful touches per game and is also dispossessed less. His 2.9 long balls per match also eclipse Zakaria’s 1.5, although it is possible that is merely a by-product of Liverpool’s regular switching out to the full-backs. Both players are hovering in between 85% and 87% for overall pass accuracy, with Zakaria taking a slight edge in that department.
There’s no question Liverpool have looked susceptible through the middle in recent games, with Fabinho receiving heavy criticism for poor displays against Chelsea, Shrewsbury and Bournemouth. And while Zakaria may take a few more risks, the 23 year-old is absolutely a rising star in his position, with his tenacity in the tackle and driving runs forward proving a unique combination that offers a combative presence at both ends of the pitch. Boasting superior numbers in almost every defensive statistic while also offering more going forward, a potential summer move for the Swiss star could well signal the end of Fabinho’s time as a regular starter at Liverpool.
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