Liverpool star Thiago ran the show against Arsenal with a fine performance as the Reds won 4-0. No one can doubt what the Spaniard brings to the side.
People have doubted Thiago quite consistently since he joined Liverpool. Of course, it didn’t help that he quickly picked up a serious injury that cost him his first few months with the club.
Nor the fact that he’s battled a problem the entire time he’s been in Red. It feels as though he hasn’t had a fair shake of it.
But a lot of the criticism comes from the idea that Thiago isn’t the right fit. Liverpool are a hard-pressing, counter-attacking outfit, rather than a patient possession team. Thiago, of course, suits the latter.
In fact, only last week was Bild journalist Christian Falk labelling Thiago to Liverpool ‘a mistake’ amid interest from Barcelona. He’s not alone in that – many don’t see the impact he’s had at the club.
After Saturday, however, we defy anyone to criticise Thiago’s fit.
Thiago shines for Liverpool v Arsenal
Thiago was magnificent against Arsenal as he put in a sensational performance. It was how Liverpool utilised him that really caught the eye, though.
We wrote before the game that Arsenal actually struggle quite badly against possession sides. That made Thiago the last player they wanted to see, given patient, progressive passing is his forte.
And that proved to be the case. Liverpool were incredibly patient in the first half, effectively just giving the ball to Thiago at every opportunity.
He had 64 touches in the first half – a game-high – and completed a sensational 54 of 55 passes. Liverpool used him to create a base in midfield from which they played off, patiently waiting for their moment.
That moment eventually came on 39 minutes as a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick found Sadio Mane. From there, the game was Liverpool’s.
And by half-time, it was clear who ran the show. Thiago had two interceptions, a tackle, 98% pass completion and had created two chances.
Liverpool then switched to a counter-press for the second half. They moved away from what Thiago brought, giving him the ball less and pressing high. He’d only have 26 more touches in the second half, for instance.
But this is exactly what Thiago brings – versatility. He’s a one-man possession game, allowing Liverpool to switch between two dominant styles of play.
They kept Arsenal at bay for 45 minutes, using Thiago to pass the Gunners to death. Then when Arsenal needed to attack, Liverpool reverted to their classic counter-pressing. It was a brilliant demonstration of control and it’s something they couldn’t previously do without Thiago.
Let’s hope he can remain fit, then. Because with Thiago, Liverpool look completely unstoppable as they hurt you any way they choose.