Since returning to the side after recovering from injury, Thiago has been a mainstay in the Liverpool midfield, which has unfortunately coincided with a lean run of form in front of goal for the team. With no one creating any clear-cut opportunities, the players have relied on the Spanish international to unlock the tightest defences, which – as a Liverpool fan – sounds and looks very familiar…
Since signing for Liverpool from Bayern Munich in the summer, Thiago Alcântara has been sensational when he has managed time on the pitch. His Anfield career didn’t get off to the best of starts as he contracted COVID-19 in his first week on Merseyside. Upon his return he was swiftly thrown into the action at half-time against Chelsea, having everyone mesmerised at Stamford Bridge as he manipulated the Blues on the way to an away victory.
What followed the week after would further adore Reds fans to him, but unfortunately put the brakes on a promising start on Merseyside. After his first start in the derby, he would continue to dazzle throughout the 90 minutes showing off his wide range of skills. This game however would be an ever-mentioned fixture in Liverpool’s season so far, as a poor refereeing performance, alongside brutal injuries to Virgil van Dijk and the influential Thiago, would scupper many plans for the season in hind sight.
A three-month absence would follow, with Reds fans eagerly awaiting the return of the former Bayern Munich midfielder. With communication few and far between from the club, the initial month out diagnosis was clearly wrong and many wondered when we would see him again in a Reds shirt. On the 30th December 2020 he returned.
Since coming on in the 73rd minute at St James Park, he has been at the epicentre of any good play that the side have managed to manufacture. This being said his return hasn’t seen the defending champions’ run of form improve, as the four games he has been involved in have seen two draws, two defeats and no goals. Against sides like Newcastle, Southampton, Manchester United and Burnley, clearly this isn’t good enough for any Liverpool side.
From watching all of the games, this bad run hasn’t been down to poor displays from Thiago, who has orchestrated several chances for his teammates, only for the misfiring strikers to fail to convert. With Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones and James Milner all currently lacking that cutting edge from an attacking point of view, it has meant the enigmatic Thiago has had to take it upon himself to create chances from next to nothing.
Coming full circle, this is what I am trying to highlight. There has become a reliance on him to do something to provide the spark for the team. Whether on the pitch or seeing fans comments on social media, it looks like there is too much dependence currently on him to do something. Literally he has the weight of the team on his shoulders.
This situation reminded me of time before Thiago, van Dijk and Alisson, were Liverpool and Klopp had heavily relied on one player to be there attacking threat and without him, looked a little short. Of course, I am talking about Phillipe Coutinho.
After Luis Suárez had left for Barcelona, Coutinho became the man at Anfield. Since his transfer from Inter Milan in 2013, he rapidly grew into the dependable player the side needed, becoming world class in the process, with many admirers from further afield recognising his talent. However, this pressure had been thrust upon him after Suárez left to play alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar – taking his goals with him – promoting Coutinho to the role of chief threat in the Liverpool attack.
From 2016 to the start of 2018, there was a clear dependence on the Brazilian to create chances for the forwards, and score his fair share on the goals as well. Even after the Reds had signed Sadio Mané in 2016 and Mohamed Salah in 2017, Coutinho was providing them with the opportunities to start there rises in becoming the top five world class players they are now.
He was pivotal in dragging the Reds through close contests and scoring several wonder goals to boot, with strikes Southampton, Stoke and Arsenal coming immediately to mind. His assists were as valuable as ever, with the rest of the Premier League recognising his threat; usually meaning he would be followed by two opposition players for 90 minutes. This allowed him to offload the ball to the now magical front three who would do the rest.
His eventual exit did leave a bitter taste with many Reds’ fans, but no one can argue that he was a magician and THE main man in that team. Obviously, now his transfer has benefitted Klopp’s side massively allowing for the successful acquisitions of van Dijk and Alisson, which has led to a Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League crown.
Coming back from that slight tangent, Thiago in recent games has had to play the role that Coutinho did for a couple of seasons. Being the man to go and haul the Reds forward, creating chances for others in the process. If Klopp’s side can find that killer instinct in front of goal once again, much of Thiago’s hard work can finally be rewarded. A few goals from the midfielder wouldn’t go amiss as well. However, this side is likely to develop upon van Dijk’s and Gomez’s return, allowing Fabinho back into CDM therefore pushing Thiago into his preferred position.
The hope would be that the team can get themselves back into form and take advantage of the chances that the former Barcelona midfielder creates each game. However, with the form that they are in now, this reliance on Thiago grows each game to provide that match winning moment like Coutinho did a few years ago.
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