West Ham United striker Michail Antonio has shared what he has noticed about Liverpool’s passing on the pitch.
The Jamaica international discussed the Reds on the latest edition of The Footballer’s Football Podcast. The Hammers forward claimed there is a noticeable difference in the way the Merseyside outfit move the ball around the pitch compared to previous seasons, as the side are evidently struggling to pass with fluidity.
“I don’t know how but somehow, they have just lost that connection they always had, where they always knew where each other was and they always knew how to play with each other,” he said.
“This year they are just misplacing so many passes, the connection they had is just not there, you do notice it [on the pitch] because you see it.
“The more they are not performing, the more pressure they are putting on themselves and the more pressure you put on yourself it’s harder to play the game you want to play.”
West Ham’s Michail Antonio on Liverpool
With the lacklustre start made by Liverpool’s midfield this season, I’m sure Jurgen Klopp may have had the same thoughts at one stage or another.
In the middle of the park, Fabinho is utilised as the defensive midfielder, with the sole aim of winning the ball back and providing that extra level of protection the centre-backs need. His role is less creative, and passes are often short and sideways, as a means of resetting play.
On the right-hand side of the midfield, Klopp either tends to use more of an all-rounder, someone like Jordan Henderson or James Milner, or an attacking outlet, someone like Harvey Elliott or Curtis Jones, who can link up play with the attack. This is a role which is certainly up for grabs, as it has never truly been established since Georginio Wijnaldum’s departure.
This leaves Thiago, who is the man responsible for Liverpool’s intricate passes going forward.
The Spaniard exploits gaps in the opponent’s defence and switches the play across the pitch with pin-point diagonal passes. The 31-year-old is the only central midfielder in Klopp’s squad capable of doing this to such a high level. Without him, the Reds lack any sort of creativity in the middle of the park.
This is a huge issue when he sustains injuries, as there are no obvious candidate to replace him.
Instead, Liverpool need to sign a technically-sound central player in January. Too many points are currently dropped in Thiago’s absence, due to the midfield’s lack of playmaking ability. Whilst Jude Bellingham would be the dream candidate next summer, the club desperately need someone sooner. Otherwise, if Thiago ends up sustaining a season-ending injury, the Reds will struggle to finish in the Premier League’s top-four.