Liverpool lacked Thiago in the 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa. It was a game that showed exactly why they need him this season.
Now, Liverpool were awful against Aston Villa and Thiago wouldn’t have fixed most of it. The defence couldn’t handle Villa’s aggression with the ball and were frequently caught out.
But the way Villa attacked was awfully similar. They went long, particularly looking for space in behind the full-backs. They tried to stretch Liverpool’s defence across it’s high line, creating space for onrushing midfielders.
And it worked. It’s the same plan that got Leeds United three goals at Anfield. Arsenal used it well in the Community Shield, albeit a little less aggressively.
While it’s a good way to attack Liverpool, the best part about it is how it blunts their attack. By aiming passes behind the full-backs, it forces Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to sit a little deeper.
Liverpool can’t keep the ball as well high up the pitch as a result. They also don’t threaten quite as much from wide positions. In all, they’re quite predictable.
But they did spend £20m this summer to try and fix that. If teams look to push midfielders on and attack wide, there will be space in the middle. Thiago is exactly the player to exploit that.
Suddenly, pinning Liverpool’s full-backs into the defensive line isn’t as effective – they’ll just attack down the middle with Thiago, instead.
That’s how Liverpool counter this method of attack. They appear to have seen it coming, given a 29-year-old isn’t a player they typically sign. But the Reds went all-out to sign a specific kind of talent.
Thiago can make teams think twice about attacking Liverpool. If he’d been there on Sunday, Villa would have kept their midfield solid, instead of aggressive.
So while Liverpool certainly have some improving to do, they have already addressed arguably the most worrying problem facing them this season.