Thiago is going through some struggles at Liverpool. But don’t believe the stats – there are very good reasons for it.
Some stats make it look as though Liverpool are a much worse team with Thiago in it. The current trend, after all, is that the Spaniard isn’t a ‘good fit’.
So take this from Sky Sports. It’s a graphic that clearly shows how Liverpool average more points without Thiago than with him.
They also create more, have a higher xG and control more possession. On the face of it, that’s quite damning – until you attach some context
Here, then, are two reasons that somewhat explain the struggles with Thiago.
Subscribe to Rousing The Kop TV now
Quality not quantity
This one is a pretty simple explanation – Liverpool have faced better teams with Thiago. Of course their stats are down.
The Spaniard has started eight Premier League games. That features home games against Southampton, Manchester United & Manchester City and away games against Everton, Tottenham Hotspur & West Ham United.
Southampton aside, that is five of the top eight. And Liverpool are in the top eight, meaning there are only two teams left (Chelsea and Leicester) that Thiago hasn’t started against.
And again, these games are all in his only eight starts. The others, for clarity, came against Burnley and Brighton.
Now, we’re not saying Thiago is a perfect fit. We absolutely are saying that Liverpool’s creativity stats will drop when five of the eight games you’re talking about are against the league’s best teams.
All except the passes in the final third – that’s a result of the Reds trying to pin top teams back, rather than draw them out.
That has nothing to do with Thiago.
And just a warning – Liverpool’s next two games are against Leicester and Everton, both inside the top eight. These stats aren’t going to jump for a while.
Thiago was almost certainly signed with a midfield in mind – Thiago / Fabinho / Jordan Henderson. We have seen it once.
It came away at Everton – yes, the game in which Virgil van Dijk was ruled out for the season.
Now Fabinho is in defence, of course. So what’s the next-best midfield? We think everyone would agree that it’s Thiago / Henderson / Gini Wijnaldum.
We haven’t seen it. They’ve never played together.
How on earth do you expect to see the best out of a new players under these conditions? Thiago has played in four different midfield combinations over eight starts. Once that was the first-choice midfield and never the second-best.
The best he’s played in is with Wijnaldum and James Milner but we’d have that far down the list of preferences.
It takes time for players to adapt to new teams. It may take longer than eight games. Unfortunately, injury leaves Thiago playing his eighth game in February.
But it is especially difficult when you’re learning a new system while playing in a series of make-shift midfields. Over time, we’ll see the best of Thiago.
It would be a minor miracle to see it now, though.