Richard Buxton: Fabinho steps up in unorthodox role
Substance just as crucial as style in Liverpool's EPL title quest
Dejan Lovren's mouth rarely does him any favours. His legs can also let him down at crucial moments.
The outspoken Croat is Liverpool's very own Ringo Starr; a player who believes he is among the best defenders in the world, but cannot even retain top billing in his own domicile.
He is the punchline which Anfield could really do without this season, more than most.
Unseating an imperious Virgil van Dijk is not the reason why Lovren should be fretting over his future, if he was not already. The towering centre-back is the one player that he need not fear.
Others in the Reds' backline should be similarly concerned in the wake of yesterday morning's (Singapore time) hard-fought 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion, where another capable alternative to partner the Dutchman has emerged.
Last Monday's FA Cup exit at Wolves saw Juergen Klopp sow the seeds for the reward reaped at the Falmer Stadium in deploying Fabinho as a makeshift centre-back.
On both occasions, the Brazilian rarely put a foot wrong despite never previously operating in the role.
Drafting a midfielder into defence was once considered a sign of weakness by Klopp.
His decision to deploy James Milner as an auxiliary left-back, largely due to a mistrust of Alberto Moreno, drew derision and admiration in equal measure during a first full campaign in charge.
Then as now, there was a method in the German's madness.
Milner's versatility became a useful sticking plaster until Andy Robertson arrived as the designated cavalry a year later.
Fabinho's own signing barely 72 hours after last season's Champions League final defeat appeared to signal a changing of the guard.
Few, however, envisaged that the former AS Monaco enforcer would be usurping the likes of Lovren and Joel Matip rather than Jordan Henderson.
Yet the one-time right-back's calmness and reliability are traits which Liverpool will need in abundance if ambitions of a long-awaited EPL title are to be finally realised this season.
More opponents will dig in against them in the months leading up to the ultimate moment of truth.
Simply overpowering teams with the pace and cunning of an attack led by Mohamed Salah will not always bear fruit as it did against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United last month.
The Reds need to ditch style for substance on certain occasions and eke out a result.
Fabinho's stint in largely unfamiliar terrain, like Milner's, is likely to be a short-term option.
He has been too great an asset further downfield, but it is an approach which may need to be revisited when Liverpool face similar challenges in the weeks ahead.
Their next four games - home visits against Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and a trip to West Ham - threaten to pose more of the same that they faced on the English coast.
Stifling dogged target men will again be the order of business in these games if Liverpool are to remain on course for the title. Until the threat passes, Klopp may need to stick with his unconventional centre-back.