There was much fanfare around Liverpool signing Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich in the summer transfer window.
And rightly so.
The Spaniard is an absolute world-bester on his day; he plays football with the grace of a ballerina and the intelligence of a brain surgeon.
But for one reason or another things haven’t gone to plan for Liverpool this campaign, and they’re struggling to reach the dizzying heights of last season’s success.
Of course, Liverpool have been hit exceptionally hard with injuries.
Losing Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez for the best part of the season – and having to pave over these cracks by moving the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho into defence – would hamper any side.
And in some ways, Liverpool still being in with a genuine shout of winning the league before their defeat by Manchester City, is testament to just how good this team is.
But there are other reasons for their sudden demise, and Thiago has found himself at the heart of this debate being had by football pundits.
John Barnes got the ball rolling when he suggested Liverpool’s recent goal drought is the result of Thiago slowing down the Reds’ build-up play.
Liverpool are known for their heavy metal football, where they get the ball up the pitch quickly and hit teams on the counter attack.
This isn’t Thiago’s style.
And with the Spaniard pulling the strings in the middle, the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane aren’t being fed in the same way they were last season.
Barnes told talkSPORT: “With [Jordan] Henderson and Fabinho in midfield, they just get the ball forward and are much more direct for the three strong-running strikers to get on the ball and go on attack, Thiago slows the game down.
“When he slowed the game down in tight areas, that is not Mane’s game, that is not Salah’s game. So we’re getting used to a new system, but at the moment it’s not working.”
Robert Huth has now provided his thoughts on the Thiago debate, and for the most part he completely agrees with Barnes’ assessment.
“They are such an amazing machine Liverpool, when they have all the players available they’re literally 11 machines on a pitch,” Huth told Compare.Bet.
“When you take a few out, you lose that sort of momentum, like Henderson playing at centre-back – people not playing in their positions.
“While it might be doable for the short–term, ultimately you want all your best players playing in their best positions and that hasn’t come.
“Where Liverpool used to be really threatening on the counter, winning the ball high up, having Thiago in there now, as great a player as he is, he just doesn’t have the energy.
“I mean [he’s had an] amazing career for sure, but he’s not going to be flying around like Henderson does, like Wijnaldum does, like all the other players.
“They need a real high energy player to break the lines when they win the ball.
“All that sort of thing is missing. Like Klopp used to say, it’s heavy metal football and they’d just blow teams away, but that sort of energy is missing at the moment.”
There’s not denying Thiago is a class act; both Huth and Barnes agree with this fact.
But Klopp has a big job on his hands in successfully altering Liverpool’s attacking play to find a new system that works.
And he must do so quickly if Reds fans are to see the best from Thiago, and the Spaniard is to help Liverpool compete with Manchester City for the title.
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