By Jack Meen (@jackmeen15)
Jack’s blog: https://jacksfootballblog.game.blog
In recent weeks, Thiago Alcantara has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool. But does he have the tactical nous to play for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds?
Firstly, Thiago is not a typical ‘Klopp signing’. He is 29 and well within his peak years. Klopp, however, routinely opts to pursue younger players, years before their peak.
Thiago is also currently on 221k per week at Bayern Munich and you’d be foolish to believe the Spaniard would be on anything near that figure if a move to Merseyside does indeed materialise. In fact, on the basis of Liverpool’s current wage structure, accruing money that exponential every week would make him the highest-paid player at the club.
But, then again…
For any club in world football, Thiago’s a statement buy. It would certainly show the footballing world that Liverpool are no longer seen as a stepping stone, but rather an end destination.
There’s also the patently clear fact that he’s a world-class operator. And why wouldn’t Liverpool want another top-class creative spark in midfield?
So would Thiago fit the system?
In Liverpool’s first-choice midfield three this season, Fabinho plays as the six, with duo Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum operating as the gateway between defence and attack. The latter is usually the more dynamic of the two.
Out of the three, however, Wijnaldum is arguably the more likely to drop out. The Dutchman’s contract has just one year to run, and Thiago would thus be signed with the view of succeeding him.
Assumedly, one of the reasons Thiago is keen to move is so he can enjoy more of a free rein in midfield. At Bayern, of course, he plays as more of a deep-lying playmaker in a ‘double pivot’ next to Joshua Kimmich, where his freedom is curtailed somewhat.
If we compare chances created, Thiago averages around 2.84 per 90, compared to that of Wijnaldum who averages 1.31. This is perhaps down to the very different roles that Thiago and Wijnaldum play, with Wijnaldum carrying less of a creative burden.
But Thiago’s ability to slalom in and out of challenges and then find ‘the right’ pass could be crucial in tight games against lesser opposition. His very presence, therefore, could change the way Liverpool approach football matches because he’s not a gun-ho indefatigable operator like Wijnaldum, but more aesthetically-pleasing and incisive. But that’s not to say he’s a ‘luxury player’.
Passing wise, Thiago ranks second in the Bundesliga when it comes to passes completed per 90. Out of the 90.4 he attempts, Thiago completes around 83.7 of them. Whereas Wijnaldum attempts 48.8 passes per 90, completing 44.1. It suggests Wijnaldum plays relatively safe, whilst Thiago takes a risk or two (and it usually pays dividends).
One of the key areas we focus on in order to predict whether a player can adapt to Klopp’s demanding style of play is their pressing numbers. More specifically, the number of counter presses applied on a player per 90. This year Wijnaldum has averaged 15.3 presses per 90, with a success rate of 31.8%. Thiago, on the other hand, averaged 14.8 presses per 90 with a success rate of 34.6%. The contrast is small, and so the amount of work Thiago does off the ball is maybe understated.
Overall, the acquisition of Thiago would do a lot for Liverpool. Their ability to break down the low-block would, inevitably, be enhanced. Simultaneously though, Thiago’s arrival would, inevitably, limit someone like Curtis Jones’ minutes in the first team.
The entire ‘Thiago passage’ – his fee (in the region of £30million) and wages – is substantial. But, as per the stats, he’d no doubt prove to be an astute addition.