Thiago and Roberto Firmino could make Liverpool virtually unstoppable going forward. The duo could complement one another perfectly.
There’s no question that Thiago is an exciting £20m addition. He’s one of the world’s best midfielders, after all – a truly elite talent and the kind of player Liverpool don’t have.
The Spaniard looks to build play from deep, offering a near-permanent passing option for teammates, while playing defence-splitting passes himself.
And that’s an incredibly exciting prospect for any team with Firmino.
Firmino is one-of-a-kind right now, even since Jurgen Klopp turned the £29m man into a forward. He’s a no.9 whose entire game is built around space and movement. Not scoring, not even passing, but space and movement.
He finds it for himself, where he can then look to damage teams. If anyone plays without a defensive midfielder, they’re asking for trouble. He’ll drop into that hole between defence and midfield, becoming virtually impossible to pick up.
Defenders can’t afford to step out or they’ll leave gaps for Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to run into. Midfielders can’t drop back and mark him because they rarely know he’s there.
It makes him so dangerous against flat midfields and that’s something we’ve talked about a few times recently. His performance against Tottenham Hotspur last season, in particular, is a fine demonstration.
But it only works properly against flat midfields. As soon as a team plays with a holding player or two, Firmino has to drift wide to find space. That sometimes limits his involvement and Liverpool don’t quite function as well as they could.
Fortunately, Thiago fixes that.
Thiago, like Firmino, thrives on space. He’ll move around the middle of the pitch to find it, becoming a passing option and looking to do damage from deep. He’s very difficult to pick up and, really, the only way to hurt him is to have a player defending the space in between Liverpool’s defence and midfield.
That way, teams can force Thiago a little wider and stop him from controlling the middle. But that comes at a sacrifice.
Most teams play with three central midfielders and when you do, you have a choice. You can play with your central midfielder advanced or deeper in front of your defence. The former would hurt Thiago, the latter Firmino.
And that’s the beauty of what Liverpool now have. Virtually no teams can play with both. You could play a diamond formation, of course, and take up the space of both – but then you leave Liverpool’s full-backs – and most creative players – completely unopposed. We wouldn’t recommend that.
Suddenly, it becomes impossible to take up all the space Liverpool use. No matter what you do, you leave key areas for creative players unguarded.
Most teams will play with a holding player to stop Firmino and ask their striker to drop deep to cover Thiago. It won’t work. Liverpool’s centre-halves will be free for the entire game and they can all pass.
Not to mention the fact that few forwards will know how to press Thiago. But that’s how we see many games happening this season.
Thiago is an exciting prospect on his own but with what Liverpool already have in Firmino, he becomes even more so. Liverpool could become truly unstoppable this year.