Thiago debut hints at future system switch for Liverpool FC

Jack Hallows believes that the shape Liverpool FC adopted in the second half against Chelsea could be a nod to the future. 

We’d only just calmed down celebrating the fact that Chelsea centre half Andreas Christensen had made a fatal error to get himself sent off just before half time when the footage cut back down to the pitch to show the two teams returning from the break.

There was no Jordan Henderson to be seen but instead Virgil van Dijk had the armband and new signing Thiago Alcântara was pulling on his Liverpool no.6 jersey for the first time.

The Spaniard’s introduction was notable because it was his debut and all eyes were trained solely on the former Bayern Munich midfielder but it was a decision made from the start that should be the major talking point about this game.

New signing Thiago Alcantara set a Premier League record on his Liverpool debut as he out-passed every single Chelsea player, despite only being on the pitch for 45 minutes. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY GETTY IMAGES VIA GOAL.

With Joe Gomez and Joël Matip sidelined already in just the second week of the season, Fabinho had been asked to once again deputise at centre half and while eyebrows were raised pre-match, the Brazilian was excellent.

The right-hand side of Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold was a clear target for Chelsea, with Lampard switching his front three to have Werner on the left rather than through the middle.

The German was given absolutely nothing though by the Reds defensive midfielder who twice showed remarkable patience and composure in the first half to lead the striker down a blind alley and clip the ball off him at the perfect moment.

The Brazilian won 4 of his attempted 7 tackles, made 4 interceptions (2 in Chelsea’s half) and did not lose possession once in the match.

Virgil van Dijk has hailed Fabinho for keeping Timo Werner at bay during Liverpool’s win at Chelsea on Sunday. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY YAHOO! SPORTS AUSTRALIA.

The Reds’ no.3 even finished the match with a higher WhoScored rating (7.4) than partner Virgil van Dijk (6.6).

The fact that Klopp was comfortable playing Fabinho in this role is no surprise, he’s done it before for the Reds and it could be a nod to future plans – especially if his form remains this impressive in the role.

With the introduction of Thiago to the squad and the ability of Henderson to also fill in the no.6 role that Fabinho has previously made his own, Klopp has plenty of options with how to set out his team.

Against sides who sit deep this season, the German may look to take advantage of Fabinho’s naturally progressive passing range and comfortability playing in a high line system to include him alongside Virgil.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 20: Timo Werner of Chelsea is challenged by Fabinho of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on September 20, 2020 in London, England. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY DARREN WALSH/CHELSEA FC VIA GETTY IMAGES.

This frees up midfield spots for the manager to field two or even three of Thiago, Henderson, Keïta, Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain depending on the system.

It could even mean that we see the front three backed up by either of new boy Diogo Jota or Takumi Minamino while a pairing of Thiago/Keïta and Henderson/Wijnaldum provide cover and progressive passing from the midfield.

This not only allows the Reds more attacking options but reduces the reliance on the full-backs.

There have already been slight switches made to try and accommodate this and against Chelsea, the pairing of Trent and Robbo only played two key passes between them according to UnderStat.

Mohamed Salah, by contrast, played 5, Roberto Firmino 3 and both Henderson and Thiago 1.

The fullbacks are an incredibly deadly weapon for Liverpool but if they are now just one tool in the arsenal, it’s going to be even harder to stop an already brilliant Liverpool side this season.


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