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Liverpool saw the best of Thiago in 2021/22 – and there’s still more to come

Thiago silenced the doubters and produced a masterclass of a season in 2021/22, bringing Liverpool’s midfield the added dimension it needed.

The 31-year-old suffered an up-and-down first campaign at Anfield, having arrived from Bayern Munich to much fanfare in September 2020.

Injuries and COVID-19 stunted Thiago‘s progress in a bizarre campaign behind closed doors, but his exceptional performances towards the end helped Liverpool finish third in the Premier League.

If that was a taster of his world-class brilliance, Reds supporters were treated to a nice full plate of it in 2021/22.

Thiago, 2021/22

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 30, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 26 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 13
Unused sub: 1
Goals: 2
Assists: 5

Overall Season Rating: 8.87 (=5th)

 

World-class campaign

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - Tuesday, May 3, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara celebrates after his side's first goal to make the score 2-1 (2-3 on aggregate) during the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg game between Villarreal CF and Liverpool FC at the Estadio de la Cerámica. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Some footballers feel almost magical, such is their natural talent – all you want to do is watch them perfect their craft.

Thiago is one of those, with few midfielders over the past decade possessing his passing technique, quick feet and ability to dictate games.

His first season at Liverpool was painful because we were so often robbed of this experience – even when he did play, it was in front of no fans and Jurgen Klopp was tackling injury problems.

While Thiago did miss the opening few games of 2021/22 with fitness issues, it wasn’t long before he was a fixture in the team.

In his first five starts, Liverpool beat Leeds, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Porto and Southampton by an aggregate scoreline of 16-0, summing up his influence.

Against Porto, Thiago‘s stunning Champions League Goal of the Season winner in front of the Kop even had its own major discussion point: did it skim the surface or not?

The jury is still out on that one!

A rare low point in Thiago‘s campaign saw him miss the League Cup final after an injury in the warmup, but his fitness was largely positive by his standards, with 39 appearances made overall.

This was so key to Liverpoool seeing the best of him, and while his metronomic passing stood out, his overall game shone.

It can be easy to label a player of Thiago‘s ilk as a luxury, but the Spain international has a tenacity off the ball that often goes criminally underrated.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, February 10, 2022: Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara (L) vies with Leicester’s Luke Thomas during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

He pressed relentlessly all season and bit into tackles, producing the sixth-most successful pressures among the Liverpool squad (117), as per FBref, behind Mo Salah (127), Fabinho (131), Sadio Mane (143), Jordan Henderson (146) and Diogo Jota (164).

Thiago also won a total of 58 tackles, which was superior to all of his team-mates, further highlighting his off-the-ball presence.

It was in possession that he still caught the eye most, however, with his ability to break the lines and see passes others could only dream of.

Thiago gave Liverpool’s midfield the creative spark it had lacked for too long – a conductor who pulls the strings, offers unpredictability and negates the low block.

His outrageous back-heeled assist for Mane against Wolves on the final day of the Premier League was the perfect example of that, at a point when the Reds were in a perilous position.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 27, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara embraces manager Jürgen Klopp after being substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was a nine-month period to treasure from a midfielder every bit as aesthetically pleasing as any Reds player in recent memory.

He finished the season with 89.1 and 91.1 percent pass completion rates in the Premier League and Champions League, respectively – hugely impressive, given his risk-taking on the ball.

This was the player Liverpool supporters dreamed that they were getting in 2020 and he played a major part in a wonderful season.

 

Almost unrivalled influence

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 16, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara celebrates with the supporters after the FA Cup Semi-Final game between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This is a Liverpool team littered with world-class talent, and with individuals who feel indispensable.

Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho all stand out in that respect, but Thiago was unquestionably added to that list in 2021/22.

When he wasn’t around, you felt it, with Liverpool immediately more predictable and far less imposing as a team.

They were a completely different animal when Thiago was on the pitch, especially when accompanied by Fabinho.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 4, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The midfield seemed invincible when they were around, as highlighted by the fact that they didn’t lose when both starting together until the 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan in March.

Thiago brings something that no other Liverpool midfielders are close to offering – or many players in the world for that matter.

He is the sprinkling of magic in the middle of the park, with the added winning mentality and fight to go with it.

Cruelly, an injury in that Wolves game left Thiago undercooked and not 100 percent for the Champions League final – how different it may have been if he had been on top of his game in Paris.

 

Future role

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 14, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara celebrates after the FA Cup Final between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. The game ended in a goal-less draw, Liverpool won 6-5 on penalties. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is no question that Thiago will again go into next season as one of Klopp’s key lieutenants, especially after enjoying a much-needed summer off to recharge.

He is now 31 and injuries do always feel possible, however, so relying on him week in, week out is something that feels unlikely.

For that reason, Thiago needs to be managed carefully by Klopp – as was the case this season – in order to see the best of him when he does play.

Eventually, the time will come when new regulars need to be starting in Liverpool’s midfield, but for now, Thiago‘s place in the Reds’ strongest team isn’t even up for debate.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 29, 2022: Liverpool players celebrate during an open top bus parade around the city after the club won the Cup Double, the FA Cup and the Football League Cup. Ibrahima Konaté, Luis Díaz, Thiago Alcântara. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thiago won’t be around forever, so Liverpool fans should treasure every moment of him between now and whenever he eventually leaves.

He is an extraordinary player and one who has now delivered on that early hype.


Best moment: The goal against Porto, closely followed by the assist at home to Wolves.

Worst moment: A terrible first half away to Villarreal.

Role next season: Key player.

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