Thiago’s defensive stats are among the WORST in the Premier League – and Liverpool’s star new playmaker has conceded more fouls than made tackles! Starting with the Merseyside derby, he must curb his craving to stick a boot in…
- Thiago Alcantara has struggled since nailing down a regular place in the team
- Liverpool’s star signing last summer was culpable against Leicester last week
- His foul on Harvey Barnes led to Leicester’s equaliser and the Reds’ capitulation
- Thiago’s tackle and foul statistics are among the worst in the Premier League
- Ahead of the Merseyside derby, the Spaniard must rediscover some discipline
On an evening which would end Liverpool’s wretched run of form, Tuesday’s win against RB Leipzig began in familiar fashion. It didn’t take long for Thiago Alcantara to commit his first foul – 54 seconds in fact.
In a side which could barely be improved following a record-breaking season, Thiago’s arrival last summer was meant to be the final piece in this triumphant Liverpool jigsaw.
Fresh from winning a treble at Bayern Munich, he was the ace in the pack, capable of dictating an entire contest at his own pace and splitting open defences with ease. That heavenly fantasy seems a stratosphere away now.
While the Champions League win on Tuesday was convincing, with the Spain international strikingly composed after his first-minute indiscretion, last year’s runaway champions are in a state of domestic free-fall.
Thiago is the one who has particularly been thrust into the spotlight. Since becoming a regular fixture in the team in January, Liverpool have scored once at Anfield and have won just two out of eight league games.
Thiago Alcantara (L) has endured a tough start at Liverpool and has been hasty in his tackling
The Spain international has the worst minutes-to-booking ratio of the entire Liverpool squad
The Spaniard’s passing has been unusually uninspiring. If it’s not misplaced, it’s safe and backwards. Yet in actual fact it is his tackling – and the fouls and bookings that follow – which are a cause for concern.
Ill-discipline, for any team in a rough patch, is nothing short of a killer.
Since joining in September, Thiago rates the highest amongst the Liverpool squad for minutes per tackle, at 33. More worryingly though, he makes a foul every 32 minutes and has in actual fact committed more fouls (26) than successful tackles (25) during his 11 Premier League appearances so far this season.
Similarly, his three yellow cards are the highest in the Reds’ team in terms of minutes per booking, at one every 274 minutes – just over three full matches.
Fouls conceded: 26
Yellow cards: 3
Statistics according to Opta, in the Premier League
In the Premier League as a whole, despite only making eight starts so far due to a long injury lay-off, Thiago ranks third highest for average minutes per foul – only Burnley’s Ashley Barnes and Aston Villa’s Trezeguet are ahead of him.
It is also Thiago’s worst season of his career – thus far – in terms of fouls.
His next worst season in terms of minutes-per-foul was in 2013-14 for Bayern, while only last season did he rack up more yellows-per-minute played than he has done so far in this campaign.
So, what to make of all this? It’s clear that Thiago’s eye-opening figures may be down to acclimatising to a new country and a new league, in a Covid lockdown.
And yet, should we have seen this coming?
It’s easy to forget that it was only 28 minutes into his Liverpool career that we saw the first sign of Thiago’s clumsiness on the defensive side.
After coming on as half-time substitute, he gave away a penalty on debut against Chelsea, unnecessarily clipping Timo Werner in the box. Fortunately for him, Alisson spared his blushes by saving Jorginho’s spot-kick.
Alisson saved Jorginho’s penalty in September after Thiago clumsily fouled Timo Werner
His defensive woes started from the off against Chelsea – but he has not learnt his lesson yet
No such luck recently though – last weekend’s defeat at Leicester was a new low.
Dropped to the bench, Thiago was a first-half substitute for James Milner. While he prodded and pressed consistently in the middle, a moment of absent-mindedness was the catalyst for a capitulation in the final 15 minutes of the contest.
Harvey Barnes made his trademark move, cutting inside from the left with speed. Trent Alexander-Arnold, wary of the white line of the penalty area, took his foot away – Thiago did not.
It was the clumsy tackle of a player not in tune with the speed of English football. On VAR review, he was saved from giving away a penalty, and it seemed as though the midfielder and Liverpool had dodged a bullet.
Thiago clipped Harvey Barnes on the edge of the box, which led to Leicester’s equaliser
But when James Maddison’s free-kick nestled into the corner – and the goal was eventually given on review – Liverpool lost their way completely. In no time at all, the game was gone.
Thiago’s technique when pressing is slightly different to the rest of Liverpool’s midfield. While Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Curtis Jones hurry their counterparts into errors, the Spain international all too often makes the first error himself.
In trying to nick the ball from underneath an opponent’s feet, Thiago sometimes wins the ball back quickly. Yet more often – as the stats allude to – he gives away a foul.
Henderson’s reaction was notable after the foul against Leicester – he was furious with his team-mate. Thiago shrugged his shoulders, like a man who knows better. Is that it? Is arrogance the problem here?
The Spain international has a habit of wanting to put his foot in – and often gives away a foul
That would be a harsh judgement. There is a case to be made that we should cut Thiago – a man who left behind the comfort of cruising in the Bundesliga for a shot at the Premier League – some slack.
His first four months on Merseyside were dominated by injuries and fitness concerns. He quickly contracted Covid-19, and his first start against Everton ended with a knee injury after a crunching tackle by Richarlison. Ten weeks out followed.
But there’s no escaping the simple fact that Thiago’s introduction into the side has coincided with the worst domestic run under Jurgen Klopp since he took charge back in 2015.
The remedy? A bit of patience – Thiago will inevitably become more attuned and accustomed to the rigours of our game. At 29 and with years of top-level experience in the bank, he will undoubtedly improve.
Perhaps it’s overzealousness of some sort – a keenness to impose himself on a game – which explains his hastiness and early bookings. A quiet word by Klopp or Henderson to tone down his eagerness early doors wouldn’t go amiss, maybe.
Jurgen Klopp’s star signing of last summer Thiago has not made the impact desired so far – his run in the team has coincided with the Reds’ dramatic loss of form in the Premier League
But that insistence on putting a foot in, on making his mark on a contest, is an undeniable weakness. There’s eagerness and there’s rashness – Thiago currently falls into the latter category. The stats don’t lie.
So to tonight, and the Merseyside derby. Everton are smelling blood – despite having not won at Anfield in 22 years. This is arguably their best opportunity in a decade.
For all his obvious quality, Thiago must curve his relentless appetite to put a foot in. In the intensity of derby day, any disciplinary mis-step could be Liverpool’s undoing. Again.
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