Liverpool lost 1-0 to Leicester City on Tuesday evening in a game where they didn’t have Thiago. The Reds failed to replace him correctly.
Liverpool didn’t play well against Leicester. They just didn’t pin the Foxes back enough and despite plenty of decent chances, there wasn’t a sense of control or pressure. Certainly not to the expected levels, anyway.
Because this was a game where Leicester undoubtedly would have taken a draw before kickoff. They lacked several first XI players, had played two days ago against Manchester City and aren’t exactly in great form. All expectation was on Liverpool – they just didn’t deliver.
Part of that was not having Thiago in the Liverpool XI. He missed out with a slight muscle issue after returning to training on Sunday.
And with that, Liverpool lacked a vital player here. Thiago has made them tick in recent weeks, helping the team break defensive lines and control games. Without him, they just couldn’t move Leicester about defensively, nor could they apply the pressure they wanted.
It had a knock-on of Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane not being particularly involved. Certainly not to the levels you’d want out of key forwards.
But there was a way around this. Liverpool decided not to start Naby Keita in Thiago’s place here and that was a mistake.
Liverpool lack Thiago vs Leicester
We’ve written before that Keita is Liverpool’s best alternative to Thiago. While he’s not quite the same passer as the Spaniard, he can carry the ball through the lines expertly. Keita is a great progressive midfielder, even if not a world-class one.
And we saw that against Leicester. No midfielder actually played more passes than Keita, despite him being a second-half substitute (per Whoscored). He was also massively unfortunate that Leicester scored right before he entered the game – they then sat back and limited the space to play in.
Liverpool shouldn’t make that mistake again. Keita has to start the next time Thiago is out – without him, the Reds just aren’t the same team and lack proper control.