Tim Sherwood noticed a ‘crucial’ difference that Thiago brings to Liverpool after he came on against Aston Villa last night. The Spaniard is in fine form.
Liverpool rotated against Aston Villa last night – but they kind of have to. Jurgen Klopp needs to keep his players fresh as they prepare for both the FA Cup final and UEFA Champions League final in the coming weeks. All while trying to keep pressure on Manchester City in the Premier League.
That meant Liverpool lined up without Mohamed Salah on Tuesday. They also played a first-time midfield three of Fabinho, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones. Kostas Tsimikas then came in for Andy Robertson at left-back.
The result was a team that struggled to really grab hold of Villa. Steven Gerrard’s side really took the game to Liverpool, pressing them high and squeezing the space as best they could.
Liverpool lacked control, then, as shown by conceding in the third minute and giving up a few decent first-half chances. Things did improve, though, and Klopp’s team had far more control in the second half.
Jordan Henderson coming on for the injured Fabinho played a part in that. The captain had a really solid game and organised the team well after his introduction.
But Tim Sherwood believes the real difference in Liverpool’s ability to control the game was seen when Thiago came on.
Tim Sherwood on Liverpool’s Thiago
“When Thiago came on, for me as a neutral, he gives them control,” Sherwood told Premier League Productions. “As he came on he gave them control with that ball.
“All of a sudden they could pick their runs. You’ve got Trent Alexander-Arnold getting forward because they keep better possession.
“I think he’s so key to them. In his first season, it was about settling in, perhaps he slowed the game down too much. Now he’s so crucial for them to manage football matches.”
There is certainly a big difference right now between Liverpool with Thiago and Liverpool without Thiago. The Spaniard brings a level of control that few players in world football can manage.
And so Klopp took a real risk by leaving both him and Henderson out of the starting XI for this one. Liverpool seriously lacked their usual ability to dictate the game and didn’t find it again until the captain got on the pitch.
It’s why the best midfield three at Liverpool is pretty unquestionably Fabinho, Thiago and Henderson. They offer everything the Reds need and an incredible amount of experience and composure to go with it all.
Fabinho’s injury essentially guarantees that both of the latter two start the FA Cup final – and they’ll have to be at their very best to make up for his presumed absence against Chelsea. But as we saw against Villa, they’re capable of bringing the difference.