Liverpool signed a superstar when they paid £20m for Thiago in September. But the Spaniard isn’t plug-and-play. The Reds must adapt if they’re to get the best out of him.
We’re about to finally see Thiago at his best – it’s been a long time coming. He’d played just 135 minutes by October 17th and then he picked up a serious injury, keeping him out for over two months.
Now, though, we’re starting to see him in every game. It means we should see Thiago settled before long and Liverpool can finally get what they paid for.
But as with any player, Liverpool need to make some changes to get the best out of him. Here are three we need to see if Liverpool want their £20m out of Thiago.
Between the lines
Above everything, Thiago is a player who breaks lines. He can do it with one touch or he can do it with a pass – it’s his greatest skill.
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He immediately makes your team tougher to defend. Thiago is able to take a whole section of the opposition out of the game with one piece of skill.
But to get the best out of that, you have to have teammates moving between those lines of defence. They must either move defenders around to make space for others or simply find a gap to give Thiago that passing option.
We saw Xherdan Shaqiri do just that against Aston Villa on Friday. Everyone else needs to add that to their game, though.
Thiago is one of the world’s greatest playmakers and Liverpool have to give him that license. That means allowing him to dominate the ball around the middle of the pitch.
Thus when Liverpool push up to halfway, the centre-halves have to split wider than before. It’s a risk as it isolates your defenders but the rewards are great. It pulls defenders away from Thiago to make sure he isn’t crowded.
Giving Thiago that extra space in the middle lets him work his magic. He should be one-on-one with any defender, and you’d back him to win that mini-battle.
Then he’s able to get his head up and provide the passes that make him so dangerous.
Thiago is best working between the lines but his passing range also allows your team to threaten across the whole width of the pitch.
To take advantage of that, the full-backs must attack space higher than ever.
Again, it’s a risky approach. The higher your full-backs are, the more space for opposition players behind them, after all.
The rewards are obvious, though. Thiago will find you, faster and more accurately than anyone else. And he can immediately put Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold in dangerous positions from virtually anywhere on the pitch.
Liverpool should be able to make this one work naturally. Their midfielders already cover the full-backs, they simply have to do so more often.
And in doing so, they stretch the midfield and give Thiago that space in the middle that we mentioned above. That works very nicely.
This is probably the most unique way that Liverpool can make use of Thiago’s talents. And the way he connects to find the full-backs could end up being the most devastating part of Liverpool’s new attack.
Put this all together and that £20m for Thiago looks like nothing. There’s enormous potential in it all.