When Liverpool fans debate who is going to be Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI for the Reds’ next match, there is very little room for discussion when everyone is fit and available.
Train Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson will all be behind Alison Baker. The front three will be the ‘front three’ so that only the midfield is left open for discussion.
But while it may seem like a lot of decisions need to be made at the heart of the team, the three players got the lion’s share of the majority in 2019/20. Guinea Wiznaldum started 35 leagues in midfield, getting Jordan Henderson 26 and Fabinho 22.
The trio started 10 league games together, as well as Champions League matches against Red Bull Salzburg and Atletico Madrid. If Fabinho hadn’t missed 12 matches in the middle of this season due to injury and the captain was missing eight of the final 14 matches of the campaign, their numbers would have been even higher.
This season, Klopp has more or less midfield options at the same time. After his performance at Stamford Bridge, Fabinho could be used back to the center more frequently in the future. In midfield, Nabi Keita will be expected to gain a lot more perception than his first two seasons with the club and Curtis Jones will also get more minutes in 2020/21.
Apparently the main addition though would be Thiago Alcantara and his presence might be seen Switch Klopp to a 4-2-3-1-1 formation.
If he does, the former Bayern Munich man could tie the knot with Henderson in front of the back four. In some ways they are similar players, but they also have complementary skills.
Manchester City’s Rodriguez and Chelsea’s Jorginho were the only players to make at least 25 appearances in last season’s midfield and pass 733..7 (average) in 90 minutes compared to Henderson.WhoScored per). Only three midfielders are at the top of Henderson’s five correct perpendicular passes every 90 minutes.
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Although it is part of the reason for Bayern being so influential in the Bundesliga, Thiago takes these numbers to another level. The 29-year-old crossed 90.5 in 2012/2010 and has 9.3 perfect long balls. Henderson could be among the top ten players in the Premier League for last season’s final third pass (For the FBRF), But was shaded by Thiago 9.4 at an average of 7.3 per 90 minutes.
Still, the similarities are clear. But they also have skills that can complement each other. Take dribble for example Take Thiago who completed 59 in the Bundesliga last season and had the highest success rate for players with more than 26 attempts (Via fbrief).
Although Wijnaldum finished 49, Henderson (18), Fabinho (10) and Milner (nine) could not get close to Thiago’s total.
However, the statistics also show that Liverpool’s new sixth number also chose his moments when taking his own steps with the ball. More than two-thirds of his touch – .7 68..7 per cent – was last season’s midfield third, more than any Liverpool player.
In the last three seasons, Thiago has put equal pressure on the opponent near Wijnaldum, but none of Klopp’s squad (who played for more than 90 minutes) have been able to put up a higher percentage of pressure in the third half in the middle of their field. Henderson averaged 4.7 percent more per 90 above, and 4.4 percent less in the central third (Via FBRF).
So Thiago got a bit of a wide range to cut past the pinpoint – although Henderson is away from the rubbish – the Liverpool captain looks set to cover some more parts of the pitch. If they can combine their skills together and develop an understanding of who catches and who gets on the field, to throw past opponents or to put pressure on them appropriately, the club can have a very tasty midfield pairing in hand.