Liverpool midfielder Jürgen Klopp’s big blueprint will soon become clear, with new role for Thiago
One of the determining factors for Liverpool’s superb end to the 2020/21 season, taking 26 points from the last 30 on offer and winning all of the last five games to secure an unexpected third place finish, has been the thriving relationship between Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago AlcÃ¢ntara and Mohamed Salah on the right side.
Alexander-Arnold and Thiago in particular have struck a hugely effective deal, exchanging 106 assists between them in the last five games against Southampton, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion, Burnley and Crystal Palace – more than any other combination of passes in the Liverpool team in this race which culminated in the qualification for the Champions League.
Together they have given Liverpool such a high level of control on this side of the pitch and have demonstrated an excellent mutual understanding of each other’s movements and passing habits. Alexander-Arnold has benefited immensely from Thiago’s vision and passing technique to consistently pick his forward runs, and both have so much cunning and poise that it is extremely difficult for the opposition to predict what they will do next.
Looking ahead to next season, however, JÃ¼rgen Klopp has a slight tactical conundrum to solve in terms of the midfield setup with Jordan Henderson expected to be back in the picture after recovering from the groin injury that loomed large. ‘ruled out for the last months of last season. Oddly enough, Henderson and Thiago only started one game in midfield together (the Merseyside derby in October), so there’s actually only a tiny amount of evidence on how they might function. tandem.
When Henderson returns (hopefully without suffering further injury setbacks with England at Euro) the most logical role for Klopp to use him is on the right side of the midfield trio, where he has mainly played in the last two years. Either there or as a number six when Fabinho is injured or could rest, assuming Klopp mostly sticks to his favorite 4-3-3 formation. Throughout his career, Henderson hardly ever played a left-wing role, so it’s hard to see Klopp move him there now.
Reinstalling the captain on the right would therefore be tantamount to removing Thiago from the position he seemed so well established in the final months of the last campaign, which, in a sense, may seem slightly counterproductive. However, Thiago regularly played on the left side of a two-man midfielder in his last season at Bayern Munich with either Joshua Kimmich or Leon Goretzka on his right, so it wouldn’t be entirely foreign to him.
The fact that Klopp faced him there against Everton in October suggests that this might have been the initial plan before Liverpool were ravaged by a succession of serious injuries to key personnel, including Thiago himself. Throughout Klopp’s tenure, the left triangle between Andy Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum and Sadio ManÃ© has been an integral part of Liverpool’s system, but with Wijnaldum no longer there, there is a hole to be filled on that side of the middle. on the pitch, which may well be where Thiago will step in most often next season.
It may take a few games for Thiago to fully develop that understanding with Robertson and ManÃ© (or Diogo Jota, if he’s playing on the left) that he developed with Alexander-Arnold and Salah last season, but such is his intelligence. tactics and adaptability. that changing sides shouldn’t be a problem for Thiago at all. This was evident in the derby at Goodison Park, in which Thiago’s lavish ball at ManÃ© led to the winner of Henderson’s stoppage time, dismissed only by a ridiculous offside decision from VAR.
Moving to the left side can actually open up even more possibilities for Thiago to score his influence in the last third of the pitch, as it would allow him to cut in and feed diagonal balls behind or shoot more on goal. often, as he has emphatically done drifting down the left side late to score late against Southampton at Anfield.
Curtis Jones will be hungry for opportunities, of course, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita will undoubtedly be looking to play a bigger role than they did last season, and it’s also possible that Liverpool looking to bring in another midfielder. this summer. Given his recent injury history, it is also unrealistic to expect Henderson to play every game, week after week, and he will need to be carefully managed to minimize the risk of further problems.
Right now, however, everything is going well, Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago will most likely be the top-choice trio for next season’s biggest games, offering a world-class and richly experienced mix of defensive and attacking qualities. If they can all stay in shape and freeze properly as a trio, the possibilities are tantalizing.