Stats suggest that Thiago and Curtis Jones can lead Liverpool out of their awful form. It requires one brave change from Jurgen Klopp, however.
Both Curtis Jones and Thiago have a couple of misconceptions about them.
Jones’s is quiet and understandable – that he’s a young player, not a first-team star. Liverpool shouldn’t rely on him but he’s one for the future who can contribute now.
Few would put him in the first-choice midfield if everyone was back.
People are louder about Thiago, though. Didi Hamann, for one, says the Spaniard slows things down too much. He’s certainly not alone in thinking that.
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Liverpool, they say, prefer playing faster and forward-thinking, rather than possession-based.
But one Premier League stat, in particular, suggests Liverpool have two players here who are very different to those reputations.
It’s ‘carries per 90’ – i.e. the amount of times a player drives with the ball. When only considering players with at least 900 minutes (i.e 10 games worth of football), both Thiago and Jones are top 5 in the Premier League.
The only two players above Jones are Mateo Kovacic and his teammate, Jordan Henderson. Rodri then sits between the Scouser and Thiago.
It looks even better if you look purely at carries that move the ball into the final third. They’re vital, after all, as you look to transform midfield to attack.
Jones is 7th in the Premier League, there. Thiago is 5th.
As for progressive carries – runs that bring the ball forwards more than 5 yards – Jones is 3rd in the league. Only Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish beat him.
It gets more impressive, though.
Carrying the ball is one way to get your team forward but there’s another – passing. Well, both Jones and Thiago shine there, too.
Same criteria – stats are per 90, and only counting players who have played 900 minutes – and we’re looking at passes into the final third. Essentially, passes that move your team through the opposition lines and start attacks.
Thiago is 2nd in the Premier League for it, Jones is 5th. It’s worth mentioning that the only player to beat the Spaniard is, once again, Henderson.
Henderson is a special player – let’s get that out of the way. Unfortunately, his injury against Everton could rule him out indefinitely.
And with him out of the picture, we think Liverpool have to lean into Thiago and Jones. The duo are at an elite level when it comes to moving a team forward.
No one else matches both the passing and carrying abilities of both. Except for Henderson, of course.
And that’s quite the opposite of those reputations. Thiago gets Liverpool moving forwards as well as anyone. And Jones is most definitely a first-team star.
But the two of them have a problem. With the way the team is structured, there’s no natural holding midfielder. That places a greater emphasis on defending for each of them.
Their games would be a lot simpler – and more effective – if there were a player they could count on to shield the defence. And that’s where we think Jurgen Klopp must make a brave decision.
He’s got to get Fabinho back into midfield. Have him as the shield and use him as a base for Thiago and Jones to play off of.
It means taking a chance on Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak but we think it’s worth it. The Jones / Thiago double-act could be exactly what Liverpool need right now.