Thiago has a problem with fouls. Fortunately, Liverpool have an easy way to fix that and turn him into an even better player.
Quite a lot has been made of Thiago and the amount of fouls he’s committing since arriving at Liverpool for £20m. And there’s something to that – he makes far too many.
Out of Premier League players with at least five games, the Spaniard averages the 7th-most per 90 minutes (per Whoscored). You can count on Thiago to commit three for every 90 he plays.
That’s the worst at Liverpool by quite some way. The next worst for the Reds are Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri at 2.2 per 90.
But Liverpool can fix this. One reason Thiago fouls so often is that he’s the last midfielder in front of the defence more often than not. It leads to desperation tackles to try and stop counter-attacks, which is not his strong suit.
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Introducing a reliable holding player behind him should cut down on those desperate tackles. But we’re not counting Gini Wijnaldum as one of those, given the holding role isn’t his best role, either.
Instead, either Fabinho or Jordan Henderson returning to midfield should cutback on Thiago’s fouls. It really can be as simple as that.
Suddenly, Thiago wouldn’t need to worry about the back-four so much as there would be a shield. He can therefore be a little more conservative with his tackles.
Liverpool will want that because Thiago currently wins the most tackles in the team. He wins, on average, 2.6 tackles per game.
The next two highest are Fabinho and James Milner on 2.2.
So Thiago’s fouls are not a case of him being a bad tackler, nor are they him just deliberately fouling. He can win the ball at a fantastic rate per game.
Liverpool just need to help him choose better opportunities to win the ball. Giving him defensive support in midfield should be enough to do that.