In the midst of a four-match consecutive losing run, little has been made on the form of Thiago Alcantara.
It has been lost in recent weeks just how influential he has been when a number of mitigating factors weren’t against him.
Just look at his first Liverpool start. Against Everton at Goodison Park, Thiago was the shining light in what was one of the team’s best performances of the season.
No one had more touches (99) or completed more passes (73) – 45 of which were inside the oppositions half. Thiago also innovated the move that directly led to Jordan Henderson’s injury-time goal that was ruled off for a tight offside goal.
It was a typical no-look pass from the Spaniard to pick the run of Sadio Mane. It was one of those moments that forced yourself onto your feet in sheer appreciation of footballing genius.
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Yes, we know what followed that particular result, with Thiago handed a two-month lay-off following a knee injury after a horror challenge from Richarlison.
So, the question that remains is why are we still yet to see Thiago replicate such a complete and faultless performance?
Well, you only have to look at the teamsheet. Playing in a midfield three of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, Jurgen Klopp appeared to have struck a perfect balance.
Unfortunately, the Liverpool manager hasn’t been afforded such a luxury to replicate such a perfectly-oiled transitional system. Nor will he get the chance to in the coming weeks, either, given the recent injury setback to Henderson.
Still, is the absence of the aforementioned midfield partners enough to justify Thiago’s failure to adapt in recent weeks?
In short, absolutely. But, this won’t help Liverpool nor Thiago going forward.
So, how does Klopp look to combat this? Well, he could look at employing a similar system that worked wonders for Thiago at Bayern Munich.
Indeed, at Liverpool, Klopp’s 4-3-3 dynamic is very different to what Thiago is accustomed to.
At Bayern, however, the systematic approach was very different. Thiago thrived alongside Joshua Kimmich in a 4-2-3-1 system. This enabled the likes of Thomas Muller and Philippe Coutinho greater freedom to receive the ball in higher and more threatening central areas.
With that said, could Liverpool look to implement a similar system themselves? And more importantly, what exactly would that even look like?
Well, luckily for Klopp there are two returning players that might just hand the manager exactly what he needs to implement such effective tactical change.
The return of Fabinho offers Thiago the perfect deep-lying partner, while Diogo Jota offers a solution further forward.
Can this work for Liverpool as well as Bayern?
Ironically, such an onus on attack has proven to be an effective strategy to protect Thiago’s back-four, too.
At Bayern, the two centre-backs during their Champions League success were typically Jerome Boateng and David Alaba – both of whom were not first-choice at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign.
What Bayern did to protect them was to ensure that the front players were so highly pressed that the opposition were forced to surrender back possession.
This is something Liverpool have done effectively, too, in the past with Klopp’s relentless counter-pressing approach.
With Klopp forced to pick between Ozan Kabak, Nat Phillips and Ben Davies, the reality is that his central defensive options will need protection.
This is exactly what Thiago and Fabinho can collectively accomplish. However, for this to work, Liverpool need to become more unpredictable and effective in attack – enter the return of Diogo Jota.
Another forward player to the equation will finally offer Klopp another dimension in attack. You only have to look at the collective impact of Muller, Kingsley Coman Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowdowski to see what such a combination of attacking brilliance can accomplish.
Here is how we think such a systematic change could look with both Jota and Fabinho back in the team: