Thiago could be the key to unlock the front three

Liverpool fans everywhere were overcome with excitement when Thiago Alcantara’s arrival was announced in September. 

There’s no doubt that the classy Spaniard is one of the best midfielders on the planet and now he’s back to full fitness, his presence in midfield could be more important than ever.

Initially brought in as an extra option in midfield alongside the likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Gini Wijnaldum, since returning to the side in the last few weeks he’s found himself playing in a somewhat makeshift team.

With Fabinho and Henderson being deployed in central defence due to the Reds’ well-documented injury crisis, Thiago’s return could not have come at a better time. But with those two spending the games against Southampton and Manchester United at the back, it’s meant Thiago has had to play predominately as a traditional six.

In this role, he’s displayed a range of passing that quite simply cannot be achieved by any of the other club’s midfielders. His vision and footballing brain are on another level and despite only playing five league games for the club, it is evident his quality is among the very best in the Premier League.

Thiago Alcantara of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St. James' Park on December 30
Thiago adds an extra layer of quality to Liverpool’s midfield.

It’s no secret that Liverpool have been struggling in front of goal of late. While many of Liverpool’s injury issues have been at the back the front three have been misfiring and the Reds are currently experiencing their worst goal drought since 2005.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. A subtle tweak to Thiago’s positioning could well be the answer.

One reason that has been mooted for Salah, Mane and Firmino’s lack of form is that Hendeson and Fabinho have hade to move into the defence. A significant proportion of Liverpool’s build-up play comes from the pair so moving them out of their natural positions is bound to have an impact on the entire system.

The Liverpool front three are uncharacteristically out of form at present

A systematic issue seems like a more difficult problem to solve on the face of it. But Thiago’s ability could be a solution staring Klopp in the face. During the first half during Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Manchester United on Sunday, the Reds’ brightest moments came from Thiago’s creativity.

Not just his passing ability but on more than one occasion he effortlessly glided past United’s midfield and defence helping Liverpool advance up the pitch and into more dangerous areas.

With Joel Matip back in full training as well as the emergence of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips, Liverpool should be seriously considering moving Henderson back into the midfield. While the defensive shielding position is not the skipper’s favourite midfield role, he’s shown time and time again he will play wherever he is needed. 

With this in mind, playing Henderson in this position (which he has done on occasion this season already) would allow Klopp to move Thiago’s starting position forward, making him more of an eight and putting him closer to the front three.

Having his dribbling and passing skills higher up the pitch is sure to open up Premier League defences and there is far too much quality in Liverpool’s attack for this drought to be anything more than a blip.

In simplistic terms, all it will take is one ball to fall correctly, or one deflected effort to spin in for the confidence to come soaring back.

And with Thiago now getting a regular run in the team his quality is beginning to shine more and more each game. He also has an eye for goal and while not renowned for his goalscoring antics he demonstrated in that match against Manchester United that he’s not afraid to let fly.

Liverpool lack a real goalscorer from midfield when Oxlade-Chamberlain is not on the pitch and moving Thiago’s position is sure to help in this regard too.

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