Liverpool are set to sign Thiago Alcantara, giving Jurgen Klopp massive depth in the centre of the park and another midfield option – an elite quality one, at that.
Thiago is enormously talented, but it’s not just down to his on-the-ball passing and vision, which is probably his greatest strength.
The Spanish international is an accomplished ball-winner, a thoroughly strong dribbler through the lines and works non-stop with clever positional work – an all-round world-class performer in both halves of the pitch.
He is to be added to the squad which already boasts a title-winning team, with a midfield now adding a little extra guile to the industry and match-dominating platform which it already provided.
Klopp has now got nine midfield options at his disposal at present: Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, James Milner, Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Marko Grujic and now Thiago.
It could well be the case that one or more still depart this window, as competition for places will be fierce indeed, but there’s also lots of versatility in that group to fill in on the wing or in defence.
So how could the team line up with our new No. 6 in place? Here we look at five key options, using different systems Jurgen Klopp has shown a preference for and with the players Thiago will perhaps compliment best.
*Naturally, with so many options not all variations of a starting lineup can be shown, so feel free to swap in a Milner for a Henderson or similar according to your player preference!
The ‘Welcome to Anfield’ 4-2-3-1
It’s not the Reds’ go-to system, but Klopp has turned to 4-2-3-1 as an in-game switch and used it several times in pre-season.
Also: remember after Fabinho joined? The boss altered the midfield arrangement somewhat to give the Brazilian minutes on the pitch in a shape he was familiar in, while adjusting to the demands of playing the six by himself.
We could see similar here, with Thiago being employed in a double pivot at times to get up to speed with the rest of the side – a move which might see any one of a number of players in the No. 10 role.
To minimise the overall change of the team, though, it could be Gini Wijnaldum reprising the attacking midfield role he plays for the Dutch national team.
The ‘all-out-attack’ 4-2-3-1
Late in games, chasing a goal or for those matches we just want to absolutely dominate and expect to have all of the ball in, this would be quite the statement of attacking intent.
There’s recovery runs from the midfield duo and Bobby, but the emphasis is very much on movement, forward passing and possessing a goal threat from all over the pitch.
Swap in Jones, Ox or another forward as you like, but the Thiago-themed idea here would be to have him in space and directing the game quickly, with all the firepower ahead of him.
Not one we’ll likely see too often, but the Reds definitely have the options if needed to claw back points late on!
The ‘versatility on show’ 4-3-3
As mentioned above, a lot of the midfielders can play multiple roles.
Hopefully it won’t happen, but if we have an injury crisis (or corona strikes for a couple of weeks), Klopp could easily be forced to make big calls in a few areas.
If Fabinho has to drop into centre-back as the fourth choice, Thiago can easily fill the deeper role, particularly if we have two pressing demons ahead of him to get through an insane amount of running.
We’ve thrown a few extra changes in, too, just for show.
The ‘Jurgen’s dream’ 4-3-3
In reality, the team could be quite constant with just the odd change each game once the games come in a steady rhythm.
Then it will be all about players who have earned the shirt, who are in-form and fit, playing well and winning games.
Klopp’s dream midfield could be one we see: he labelled Naby Keita the second-best midfielder in the Bundesliga at one stage as we signed him, behind only…Thiago. Now the boss has both at his disposal and they could prove an unstoppable combination.
Behind them, we could easily put the boss’ captain in over Fabinho, but when on top form there’s no better defensive midfielder than the Brazilian.
The ‘everyone does everything’ 4-3-3
That said, the No. 3 has had ups and downs in form at times, particularly after injury.
If he’s missing for any reason, Klopp has zero reason to fear: with the above trio in place, every one of the three can play deepest, every one of them can play as an eight, every one of them can contribute enormously in build-up phases and defensive work.
It’s almost the old Champions League midfield, Thiago in for Milner in this case – but the former Bayern man brings an elite level of penetrative passing which that side didn’t have and the ability to drop in and out of each role according to counter-attacks.
The options are plentiful – now Jurgen has to pick the right one each week!