With one training session under his belt and less than 48 hours spent at the club, Thiago Alcantara sent shockwaves through the footballing world on Sunday afternoon after he made his Premier League debut for Liverpool.
Liverpool’s opponents on the day were Chelsea – a club who have undeniably splashed the cash this transfer window and spent over £200m spent on signings such as Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell in an effort to bolster their chances of becoming Premier League champions once again.
The Reds dominated possession in the opening 45 minutes of the game and Fabinho did well to cut down the attacking presence of Werner on the wing, but when Andreas Christianson grappled Sadio Mane on the 45th minute and put Chelsea down to 10 men, the tide really started to turn in Liverpool’s favour.
Before the game, Klopp had said that he “didn’t think for a second about starting him (Thiago)” because “he played in a different position for Bayern – they play with a double 6 and a number 10”. It was not until Jordan Henderson suffered from a tight muscle at the interval that Thiago was given his chance to shine.
For some. it would have been a step too far, too soon – he might not even fully understand how Klopp wishes to utilise his talents over the upcoming months. But Thiago was able to show supporters what an experienced, collected and composed player he is, and he soaked up the instructions from Jurgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders on the side-lines before being brought on.
Throughout his second half performance, he completed more passes (75) than any Chelsea player and made more passes than any player has done within 45 minutes since passing stats began for Premier League fixtures in 2003.
The 29-year-old often played the ball out wide to Robertson and positioned himself in a way which left him with acres of space to do so. The passes were sensible, and his presence allowed Jurgen Klopps men to keep on the front foot before Sadio Mane scored twice within four minutes to give Liverpool the advantage at Stamford Bridge.
Aside from his passing ability, Thiago was also able to showcase the more attacking side to his game with a few interceptions and a low shot towards Kepa. His delight after he pressured N`Golo Kante off the ball was fantastic and it highlights how he will fit in perfectly with Klopps intense and attacking style of football.
He did concede a penalty after he clipped Werner in the box, but the foul was a soft one and Alisson managed to save the poor strike from Jorginio to keep Liverpool ahead. Klopp hailed him as “a top player” after the game, stating that “defensively it was tricky for him but offensively, that’s him”.
The Reds face Arsenal at home next week and Klopp will be hoping that Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are match ready again for their third fixture of the new campaign. It has been reported that Liverpool will not be bringing in a new centre back before the transfer window closes on October 5 (The Athletic), and it is expected that the club will focus on offloading fringe players over the next two weeks.
We could see Diego Jota make an appearance in Liverpool’s attacking line up, and it will be interesting to see how Klopp decides to use Thiago after he made such an outstanding first impression. Whatever happens, it was a far more convincing performance from Liverpool on Sunday afternoon and the two new additions to the squad have cost the club just £9.5m up front – mostly covered for by the departure of Ki–Jana Hoever to Wolves for around £10m.