Thiago Alcantara shows what he will bring Liverpool against Chelsea | Football News

Thiago Alcantara shows what he will bring Liverpool against Chelsea | Football News

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Nick Wright

Comment and Analysis @nicholaspwright

Thiago Alcantara conceded a penalty, saved by Alisson, on his Liverpool debut, but there was plenty to like about his performance in their 2-0 win over 10-man Chelsea…

Last Updated: 20/09/20 8:21pm

Thiago in action on his Premier League debut for Liverpool

Thiago in action on his Premier League debut for Liverpool

Thiago Alcantara had only taken part in one full training session with his new Liverpool team-mates ahead of their trip to Chelsea. “I didn’t think for a second about starting him today,” Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports ahead of kick-off at Stamford Bridge. “No chance.”

Klopp, aware of the excitement surrounding his arrival from Bayern Munich, hoped instead to ease Thiago into action. Barely 48 hours had passed since his move was confirmed, after all. It would have been a big ask to throw him straight into the side for a game of this magnitude.

As it transpired, however, an injury to Jordan Henderson left Klopp calling for his new £25m man earlier than planned.

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Free highlights as dominant Liverpool beat 10-man Chelsea

Free highlights as dominant Liverpool beat 10-man Chelsea

Thiago didn’t have it all his way after his half-time introduction, of course. He was indebted to Alisson that his foul on Timo Werner for Chelsea’s penalty did not result in a goal. But otherwise there was plenty of evidence to suggest a bedding-in period might not be necessary.

Thiago looked entirely at home in his new surroundings from the moment he set foot on the pitch. The circumstances were favourable for him given that Chelsea had been reduced to 10 men shortly before the break. But it was still striking how swiftly he started orchestrating proceedings.

Immediately, he was making himself available for passes in the centre of midfield, rolling the ball under his foot in trademark style and probing for gaps in Chelsea’s defence. The first no-look pass came out after just four minutes. If there were any nerves, he did a good job of hiding them.

The 29-year-old has been brought to Liverpool to give them something different, to add greater guile to a midfield currently defined by its industry.

On the evidence of these first 45 minutes, that’s exactly what he will do.

In total, there were 89 touches and 83 passes, 75 of which found a Liverpool team-mate. Only three Liverpool players saw more of the ball than that – and that’s despite Thiago only playing half of the game. He attempted more passes in the opposition half than any other Liverpool player.

They were not all simple ones either. Thiago does not just recycle possession; he breaks lines and stretches defences.

He did it repeatedly at Stamford Bridge, attempting 12 long passes in 45 minutes and finding a team-mate with 10 of them. He found Virgil van Dijk in the Chelsea box with the best of them – only for the centre-back’s touch to let him down before he could get a shot away. He picked out Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino on other occasions.

“Top,” was how Klopp described his performance to Sky Sports afterwards

But there was also an acknowledgement that it was not perfect in a defensive sense. Thiago, accustomed to playing in a midfield two at Bayern, must now get used to being in the heart of a three. “Defensively, it was tricky for him because we set it up differently,” added Klopp.

The foul on Werner for Chelsea’s penalty was clumsy. A reminder, perhaps, that the pace of the Premier League takes some getting used to – even for the best. But what was encouraging, from a Liverpool perspective, is that Thiago did not let it impact him adversely.

Thiago's passmap during his Liverpool debut against Chelsea

Thiago’s passmap during his Liverpool debut against Chelsea

In fact, around 10 minutes later, he had the confidence to commit himself again in the Liverpool box, this time stealing the ball off the toe of Werner after a Tammy Abraham shot had been saved by Alisson. It was an important intervention which showed impressive anticipation.

There were more eye-catching moments up at the other end of the pitch, including some silky footwork to evade Jorginho on the edge of the Chelsea box. He even had a scoring chance, sending a low shot narrowly wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s post following a Liverpool corner.

It certainly seems as though his team-mates enjoyed playing with him. “He’s one of the best players in the world,” Mane told Sky Sports afterwards. “I think everyone knew what he is capable of doing. We’re lucky to have Thiago in our team and today he showed that he’s a great player.”

Thiago will face far tougher tests than against a Chelsea side reduced to 10 men, of course. Liverpool’s next Premier League game pits them against Arsenal and there is a Merseyside derby to come soon after that. But the Spaniard has already offered a glimpse of what he will give them. Don’t expect him to remain on the bench for long.

Redknapp: Thiago will offer so much

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Liverpool manager praised Fabinho, Sadio Mane and Thiago afterwards

Liverpool manager praised Fabinho, Sadio Mane and Thiago afterwards

Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports: “It was almost the perfect game for Thiago given the man advantage. You never want to lose your captain (Jordan Henderson) so it’s a difficult one. The pass for the sending-off was obviously so important.

“Thiago played in the pocket and was difficult to mark. He passes the ball fast and everything he does is crisp. He strikes the ball beautifully and always looks to find the spare man. Most players tend to play the simple one but he has the quality and vision at times to wrap the ball into the feet of Salah at real pace.

“That’s what Liverpool have been looking for to get the team on the front foot and attacking. He’s got great skill and he’s always looking to execute the killer pass.

“He had more passes in 45 minutes than any Chelsea player managed in the entire match. He didn’t get his goal but he’s going to offer so much to Liverpool. He’s so comfortable and he’s going to give Liverpool something completely different to the others. There will be harder games but I was so impressed with everything he did.”

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