At £20 million, there is no word to describe Thiago’s transfer from Bayern Munich to Liverpool other than a ‘bargain.” Loved and respected worldwide, the former Barcelona and La Masia graduate has got the city rocking with the prospect of his short, insightful balls opening up Premier League defences.
However, to call Thiago a one-trick pony would be disrespectful. One of the many reasons he has succeeded in Spain and Germany and why it’s hard to see past him doing the same in England is his all-around play.
Yes, Mr. Alcântara has defensive qualities too, and lots of them.
The number 6 position
The role of a number 6 is to hold the midfield fort and break up play, not something a cosmopolitan and cultured curator such as Thiago is renowned for. Nonetheless, it’s part of the reason Guardiola brought him to the Allianz in the first place. Under Pep, 23 of his 98 Bundesliga appearances were in the defensively minded role, yet the results were staggering. During that time, he managed a 61% ratio of challenges won, a figure that most number 6s would kill for. To put it into perspective, the year that N’Golo Kante won the PFA Player of the Year Award for his defensive attributes, his ratio was 65%.
What Liverpool fans want to know is how Thiago compares against the rest of the midfield. With only three spots in Klopp’s team and an emphasis on pressing high, there is no room for slacking. It shouldn’t surprise Kopites the current administration has done its homework on this front as their recruitment process is why the team is one of the favourites with stsbet and other bookmakers for the title.
For example, Thiago’s average of 2.3 tackles per 90 minutes is better than Milner, Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain, while he leads the midfielders in interceptions (2.3). These contributions are impressive and plug the few holes remaining for last year for a player famed for his attacking ability.
The double pivot
In his final two years at Bayern, Thiago worked under Flick, a man who brought about change using the double pivot in midfield. Alongside Kimmich, TotalFootballAnalysis points out how Thiago held down the most important area and competed aggressively with his less attack-minded partner.
While Kimmich was slightly better on the interceptions front – 8.67 to 8.36 – Thiago was victorious on the defensive duels front – 67.16% to 65.54%. Apart from once again highlighting Thiago’s wonderful range of defensive skills, his final seasons in Munich show his effectiveness during crunch times as Bayern went on to take a clean sweep of trophies.
It’s wrong to avoid the link between his passing and Liverpool’s ability to control the game. After forty-five minutes against Chelsea, Thiago managed more successful passes (75) than any Chelsea performer, a record by a Premier League player who played a maximum of 45 minutes according to PlanetFootball.
It may be one game, yet it proves that Liverpool has added a dimension to their squad that isn’t only offensive. With 89 touches in a single half against top opposition, who will get the ball off Liverpool this season?
Thiago isn’t going to win awards for his defensive play, neither is it why Liverpool fans are head over heels in love with the man. But there’s no doubt he’s an all-rounder who brings aggression, positioning and intelligence to the field, attributes that will shore up the midfield.