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Liverpool would gain goals by swapping Gini Wijnaldum for Thiago

Reports everywhere suggest Liverpool want Thiago and that they could let Gini Wijnaldum go. So what would the Reds gain from the swap? Goals.

You can find all kinds of reports that claim Liverpool want Thiago. Here’s just one from ESPN. They believe that the Reds would love to bring the Spaniard to Anfield.

(Photo by Phil Noble – Pool/Getty Images)

There’s a hitch, though – they have too many players. That’s where Wijnaldum comes in, though. The Dutchman has one year left on his contract and Barcelona may want him.

So Liverpool could conceivably ‘swap’ the two players. Moving Wijnaldum on and immediately replacing him in the squad with Thiago.

But how would that work out for them? We take a little look into the stats that show why Thiago is such a valuable asset for any side.

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Looking at last season, both players played relatively similar positions for their clubs. They primarily played centre-midfield but withdrew into more of a holding role on occasion.

They each played plenty of minutes, too, but Wijnaldum managed far more. Thiago played 1716, with the Liverpool man played 2931 (per Understat) – an enormous amount.

Where they do differ, however, is in style. Wijnaldum is more box-to-box, a role he excels at, whereas Thiago is a playmaker. Bayern pass through him and get their moves going.

Although the former Barcelona man does share one remarkable stat with Wijnaldim – neither registered a single assist in the league last season.

But that isn’t why you sign Thiago or Wijnaldum. Nor do Liverpool need players to play the final ball – they had three players in the top four for assists in the Premier League last season. Four in the top 10.

Instead, it’s what happens deeper in midfield that Liverpool are looking at. And in that sense, Thiago is next-level.

One basic stat to look at is key passes, or in other words, passes that lead directly to shots. Thiago averaged over one per game last season (which makes you wonder how on earth he didn’t get an assist) whereas Wijnaldum averaged just over one every other game.

Then come the more complex stats – xG. It works out the quality of chances created and how many goals a team should score as a result.

And in that metric, Thiago blows Wijnaldum out of the water. Moves that include Thiago account for exactly one expected goal per game, on average. So in theory, playing through Thiago guarantees you a goal.

For the Liverpool man, that figure drops way down to 0.41 per game. In other words, the quality of your chances increases dramatically when involving Thiago.

Even for xGBuildup, the Spaniard thrives. This metric covers moves in which a player was involved, but didn’t take the shot or play the final pass. They’re just involved in the buildup.

It’s an important one for Thiago, given his lack of assists. It shows his importance deeper in the team and how it benefits the side to push through midfield with him.

So for xGBuildup, Thiago manages 0.86 per game. Wijnaldum manages just 0.33. From that, we can take that the quality of your chances increases greatly through Thiago.

Whereas with Wijnaldum, passing through him is no guarantee that you’ll create decent chances.


This isn’t us trying to say that one player is better than the other. They may play similar positions but really, they’re very different players. Each tries to do different things and, importantly, teams try different things with each player.

STUTTGART, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 03: Thiago Alcantara of Spain and Julian Draxler of Germany compete for the ball during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Germany and Spain at Mercedes-Benz Arena on September 03, 2020 in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

With Wijnaldum, he’s more of a support player. He isn’t there to win you games or alter how you play. He fits in where needed and keeps things working.

Thiago, though, is the opposite. You play through him and hope to improve going forward as a result. If Jurgen Klopp really does want him, then it suggests Liverpool are hoping to try something new next season.

And it should make them create better chances going forward.

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