Jurgen Klopp has detailed the thought process behind Thiago‘s role in the Liverpool midfield, explaining that the Spaniard has had to “adapt his position” to fit the system.
Thiago stands as one of the most high-profile acquisitions by the Reds in many, many years, arriving – unlike many of his current team-mates – as an established, world-class player.
In theory, Liverpool were perfectly suited to the 29-year-old in terms of their existing tactical approach and the skillset demanded by Klopp of his midfielders.
But, not aided by a two-and-a-half-month layoff early into his time at Anfield, it has still taken time for Thiago to show his quality, with there being clear improvements in the past two games following a shift in his role.
Klopp may have been referring to this move from No. 6 to No. 8 as he spoke on the adaptation period of his £25 million summer signing in Tuesday’s press conference.
“Of course, it was far from being perfect, the situation with him coming in and being injured pretty early,” the manager reflected.
“That was all not really good, but not important anymore.
“Then coming in and we had to learn. He had to learn how we play, we had to learn how he’s playing – without changing everything.
“You [don’t] buy Thiago from Bayern and say ‘OK, nice, but from now you do this different, this different and this different’.
“It’s a job, and usually you need time for that, so it settles and the things come together kind of naturally without changing too much, just making it better by using the different skills.
“It was absolutely OK, but then we thought it helps thinking again, ‘what did he do at Bayern?’, ‘which role did he play there?’, yes it was No. 6, but it was more a double six.
“So we decided to adapt his position a little bit – that worked out pretty well, it gives us stability, gives him stability, we can use his football skills which are obviously outstanding. Really good.”
As Klopp mentions, while Thiago was deployed as closer to a No. 6 in terms of his position on the pitch at Bayern, the use of a two-man midfield, rather than the three-man unit preferred at Liverpool, saw his duties become more varied.
His performances against Tottenham and West Ham, as more of a roving No. 8, highlighted a positive change in Klopp’s outlook when it comes to Thiago, with Gini Wijnaldum dropping into the No. 6 role in his place.
It also touches upon the situation flagged within outrageous criticism of the midfielder in recent weeks – with Thiago accused of “slowing the game down” – as it has clearly taken time for player and manager to find the right balance.