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Thiago is exactly what Liverpool need against Man United

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It is perhaps to unfair to portray Thiago Alcantara as the saviour of Liverpool's season just 288 minutes into his Anfield career.

But then it was always going to be difficult to manage expectations around arguably the most high-profile signing in the club's history.



Even the most glorious periods of the Reds' trophy-laden history weren't built on signing European Cup winners widely considered the best in the world in their position. And, while injury has limited the sample size from which Thiago's potential impact can be measured, it is already clear to see why his arrival was greeted by such excitement.



Aside from his countless obvious qualities, the Spaniard is quite simply nothing like Liverpool's other midfielders. For starters, he is a passing machine, averaging 90.4 per match in the short time he has been on the pitch in a red shirt thus far.



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Only fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson comes close with 80.3, while the injured Virgil van Dijk is third best and some way back with 72. Of course, passes without purpose mean little, but Thiago could never be accused of not showing intent in his use of possession.

The 29-year-old has progressed the ball 2,086.3 yards per 90 minutes on average thus far, a long way ahead of Van Dijk (1715.9) and Henderson (1632.4), who are again the two next best. He has also attempted to switch the play just over seven times per match, a figure not even Trent Alexander-Arnold (4.37) or Van Dijk (4.15) can match this term.

That Van Dijk features so prominently in these statistics neatly underlines the fact that it is not just on the defensive side of the ball that the Dutchman is being missed. His ability to change the angle of attack and get Liverpool on the front foot from a deep position has been a crucial weapon in recent seasons.

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Fortunately, Thiago's early numbers suggest he can help cover for Van Dijk's absence, even if that won't be by dominating opposition centre-forwards at set-pieces. The former Bayern Munich man isn't just picking up the slack in terms of his injured teammate's passing metrics, either, he is actively outperforming them while providing Liverpool with an entirely new threat.

An average of 14.4 passes into the final third per 90 minutes, which puts him streets ahead of Henderson's 11.8 and Curtis Jones' 7.91 is testament to that fact. A team that has for so long focused its attacks down the flanks through its full-backs now has a new, central threat in the form of its No.6, and he is only just getting started at Anfield.

Yes, Liverpool's injury problems in defence may serve to delay the point at which their Thiago-inspired tactical evolution reaches its fullest potential. But the midfielder is more than capable of taking his team some way there in the meantime, and that could still be enough to secure silverware in this strangest of seasons.


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