According to reports from The Mirror, Thiago Alcantara is expected to make his full Liverpool debut tonight against Lincoln City – this is particularly good news for Curtis Jones.
Thiago’s involvement will likely see Jones operate in a preferred midfield role further up the pitch with the Spanish international starting as a protection layer alongside James Milner in a double pivot midfield with the young scouser lying directly in-front.
After all, Thiago has performed superbly there for Bayern Munich, most recently in the Champions League final where he completed more passes than any other player during a 1-0 victory against Paris Saint Germain last month.
Klopp has remained pretty consistent with his preferred 4-3-3 formation for the majority of his time in England, and Jones would be perfectly capable of playing in the midfield trident behind the established front three forwards, as he often has when given chances to play.
The West Derby academy graduate has seen a more prominent role in Klopp’s senior side since the start of last year and the recent departure of Adam Lallana to Brighton has seen Jones identified as the Englishman’s like-for-like replacement.
Following Project Restart just a few months ago, Jones went on to make his first league start against Burnley, before further substitute appearances against Chelsea and Newcastle.
Jones has since reprised his role from the bench against Arsenal in the Community Shield and also during Liverpool’s inaugural 2020/21 Premier League opener against Leeds United last weekend. Klopp is determined to utilise the 19-year-old into his team as often as he can.
A coming of age
The addition of Thiago also increases the likelihood that Klopp could adopt a 4-2-3-1 system more frequently which will aid Jones’ attacking approach and will enable the teenager to link-up with the front-three more often as well.
Liverpool most recently did this during the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal last month. Klopp made a double substitution after 59 minutes and switched his side to 4-2-3-1, with Georginio Wijnaldum and Naby Keita providing the midfield platform for the regular front three with Takumi Minamino pushed further forward, who later scored.
The double-pivot in midfield creates a greater onus on ball retention and the ability to break through defensive lines from midfield. Thiago does this as well as arguably any midfielder on the planet and his involvement in the middle will make Liverpool much more unpredictable in attack with the creativity in the team previously lying heavily on the shoulders of Klopp’s full-backs.
Klopp’s Thiago-accommodating tactics will enable Liverpool to become more assertive in midfield and will encourage players such as Jones, Keita and Minamino to adopt more suited attacking responsibilities.
Tonight could offer the first real indication of the effect Thiago’s Anfield arrival will have on the evolution of Klopp’s Premier League and Champions League-winning squad.
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