Thiago Alcantara is only just getting started as a Liverpool player.
It’s easy to forget that the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich player has only actually made 10 appearances in the Premier League this season despite Liverpool passing the halfway mark.
And Thiago’s return to action just happens to have coincided with the Reds’ steep decline in form, losing serious ground on Manchester City with three consecutive defeats at Anfield.
Is Thiago struggling?
As a result, there have been some concerns surrounding Thiago’s suitability for Jurgen Klopp’s system and whether, for all his quality, he’s the sort of player that Liverpool need right now.
It’s an opinion shared by former Liverpool player Dietmar Hamann who warned Kopites that Thiago was never considered the first player on the teamsheet at Bayern Munich.
Speaking to talkSPORT, the German said: “I can tell you, he is a good player, he is a skillful player, but there was never a time in Munich where people said, ‘he’s got to be the first name on the team sheet’.
“So I’m very cautious when it comes to Thiago. He plays a different style of football. He likes to be in possession, but Liverpool were always good when they were not in possession, and then when they got in possession they played it quickly forward, and he’s not that type of player.”
Questions raised about Thiago
And to be fair to Hamann, he’s not alone in sharing this opinion with Reds legend John Barnes appearing to start the trend by noting Thiago’s ‘slow’ influence during the Manchester United game.
However, allow us to play devil’s advocate because there’s good reason to think that Thiago has been delivering the goods in Liverpool’s midfield, even if it hasn’t translated into an upturn in results.
Graphic comparing Premier League midfielders
The Y-axis shows the number of progressive passes per 90 minutes and the X-axis highlights the number of turnovers per touch, making for an amalgamation of ball progression and security.
In other words, who cuts the best balance between protecting the ball and playing insightful passes with it? And to cut a long story short, the data shows that Thiago is most definitely the answer.
You can check out the graphic down below to see exactly how Thiago shapes up compared to other top-class midfielders like Bruno Fernandes, Kevin De Bruyne and Paul Pogba.
Cool the Thiago criticism
So, whether or not Thiago supposedly fits the Liverpool mould, you’d be hard-pressed to say that he’s struggling in the Premier League when he’s recording passing data of such an impressive nature.
While De Bruyne might play more penetrative passes and Rodri might protect the ball better, it’s Thiago who hits the sweet spot of keeping the ball safe, but also playing threatening passes with it.
Sure, even a player of Thiago’s world-class quality is going to take time to adjust to a new system, but you can’t help feeling as though the narrative of his ‘slow start’ is a case of Chinese whispers.
Stats don’t settle everything, don’t get me wrong, but you can only argue so much with the maths and Thiago is currently head and shoulders above his Premier League rivals.