EPL

Talking Point: Thiago's instant impact at Liverpool

By Sports Desk September 24, 2020

It did not take long for Thiago Alcantara to show the Premier League exactly what he can do on his Liverpool debut.

The new Reds midfielder, signed just two days before the trip to Chelsea, came off the bench at half-time at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Champions Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners against the Blues' 10 men, with Thiago quickly finding his passing rhythm in the centre of the pitch.

Opta shared after the match that Thiago had completed 74 passes, more than any other Premier League star when playing a half or less since detailed passing data began in 2003-04.

But there was more to the former Bayern Munich man's bow than that one statistic, as Opta's advanced metrics allow us to explore...

STANDOUT STAT TOPS SCHOLES

The list of other players to have managed 60 or more passes in 45 minutes or fewer in the Premier League shows just how impressive Thiago's achievement was.

Andreas Christensen (66 passes) - for Chelsea against Sheffield United in July - is perhaps a slight surprise in second place, as is Jose Fonte (62) - for Southampton against Bournemouth in 2015 - in third. But the rest of the names in this elite group are far more predictable.

Paul Pogba is one of three players to have tallied 61 successful passes in such a cameo, doing so after replacing Scott McTominay in Manchester United's 4-1 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day last year.

The other two stars to reach the number did so in quite staggering circumstances, meanwhile.

Yaya Toure and Paul Scholes each totalled 61 passes in significantly less than a half, the Manchester City man incredibly playing only the final 17 minutes of a 7-2 win at home to Stoke City in 2017.

United pass master Scholes was on the pitch for a little longer - 28 minutes - as he helped Alex Ferguson's side to clinch a record-breaking 19th title at Blackburn Rovers in 2011.

Coincidentally, as City stole that crown 12 months later, Toure played 60 passes in the first half against Queens Park Rangers despite battling a hamstring injury.

Thiago's feat, while perhaps not quite as impressive as Toure's or Scholes', puts him in esteemed company just 45 minutes into his Premier League career.

 

ALREADY LEADING LIVERPOOL

That final tally of 74 successful passes from 82 attempts was more than any Chelsea player managed in the entire 90 minutes on Sunday. But some of Thiago's numbers also led a dominant Liverpool team.

The Spain international attempted 63 passes in the opposition half and completed 56 - both numbers were the most of any individual at Stamford Bridge.

The contrast from the first half with captain Jordan Henderson was evident, as the man Thiago replaced attempted 24 passes in this regard and completed just 16 - albeit one failed effort prompted Christensen's red card.

Henderson and 86th-minute substitute Takumi Minamino were the only visiting players not to complete 20 passes in the Chelsea half, while Mateo Kovacic - 14 of 16 attempts successful in Liverpool's half - was some way short as the hosts' top performer.

No team-mate could rival Thiago, though.

NO GOALS, NO ASSISTS, NO PROBLEM

Despite his control of the game, Thiago's passes were unlikely to appear on highlight reels of the Liverpool victory. Yet Jurgen Klopp knew what he was getting.

"I liked it, I liked his game a lot," the manager told Sky Sports. "Defensively was tricky for him because we set it up differently, but offensively, with the ball, yeah, that's him. He wants to pass the ball."

Goals and assists are not really Thiago's game. He trailed Henderson in both regards in his final season in Germany.

But the midfielder is found at the heart of almost any move, having been involved in 141 sequences that led to a shot for Bayern last term.

Thiago played a part in the build-up to five open-play shots on Sunday, including the first goal as he traded passes with Sadio Mane and then pushed the ball on for Naby Keita to switch the attack to the right flank.

Indeed, no player made more forward passes in the opposition half than Thiago's 25, while the variety of his balls opened up the pitch as he completed a game-high 10 long passes.

Liverpool fans will now be relishing the opportunity to see what their new man is capable of over a full 90 minutes - potentially starting against Arsenal on Monday.

Related items

  • Ziyech ready to adapt to fit in at Chelsea after delayed start Ziyech ready to adapt to fit in at Chelsea after delayed start

    Hakim Ziyech is willing to play wherever Chelsea boss Frank Lampard needs him after enduring a frustrating start to his career at Stamford Bridge.

    The Moroccan playmaker has yet to start a game for the Blues since arriving from Ajax, though he has only just recovered from a knee injury suffered during a pre-season friendly.

    With his move announced in February, the 27-year-old was the first signing of a busy transfer window for Lampard, who also added Timo Werner and Kai Havertz to bolster his attacking options.

    Ziyech knows the competition for places will be fierce having been impressed by his fellow new additions, as well as "crazy" winger Christian Pulisic.

    "I have two different options [over where to play], or maybe three. It depends on where the coach needs me," said Ziyech.

    "For me, it doesn't matter where I'm playing. It's just the way that I love to play the game, it doesn't matter where I'm playing.

    "Kai and Timo, they are two big talents and they already proved it in the past, what they did for their club before. Christian is also one of the biggest talents. They have enough quality.

    "For Christian, he's already been here longer than us. If you see what he is capable of doing on the pitch, he's just a crazy winger.

    "For me, it's really exciting to work with them. I can't wait to be on the pitch, fully fit, and just doing our things."

    Ziyech has not started a game since March 7, with his Ajax career cut short when the the Eredivisie season was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    However, he made his Chelsea debut off the bench in the 3-3 Premier League draw with Southampton last Saturday, followed by a cameo appearance in the Champions League clash with Sevilla in midweek.

    "The season stopped last year for me a bit early, so I didn't play for a while," Ziyech said ahead of Sunday's trip to Manchester United, which could see him up against former Ajax team-mate Donny van de Beek.

    "Like I have said before, the injury came at an unlucky time. For me, it's just important to get the rhythm back and to build up everything again.

    "I know it will take some time but, for me, it couldn't be sooner. As soon as possible, but it is what is it is right now.

    "It's most important to build again and come in with 100 per cent fitness, and that's what we're working on right now."

  • He'll bring quality for sure – Ziyech urges patience with Van de Beek at Man Utd He'll bring quality for sure – Ziyech urges patience with Van de Beek at Man Utd

    Donny van de Beek will bring quality to Manchester United if they give him enough time to settle, former Ajax team-mate Hakim Ziyech says.

    The Red Devils signed the midfielder for an initial £34.7million (€39m) in September, but the 23-year-old has found playing time hard to come by at the start of his career in England.

    His two starts have come in the EFL Cup against Luton Town and Brighton and Hove Albion, and he has managed only 60 minutes in total off the bench in the Premier League.

    Van de Beek was also only a late substitute in Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League win at Paris Saint-Germain, with Fred and Scott McTominay preferred in central midfield behind Bruno Fernandes.

    The Netherlands international, who recorded 40 goals and 29 assists in 133 games over his final three seasons at Ajax, has managed just one shot, one chance created and two passes into the attacking third in his short Premier League career.

     Ziyech, who has also struggled for game time – mostly due to fitness – since joining Chelsea from Ajax this year, says Van de Beek must "stay calm" and wait for his chance.

    Speaking ahead of Chelsea's trip to United on Saturday, Ziyech said: "We spoke at the beginning when he moved to Manchester, and in the last [few] weeks, we didn't speak a lot. And I didn't speak with him about his situation.

    "I think he will need time as well. You come from a different country, a different style of play. And I know for sure, it will take some time for him as well to get used to everything, and then I know for sure he will bring quality to the squad over there. For him, the most important [thing] right now is to stay calm."

    Ziyech, who made his long-awaited Chelsea debut in the 3-3 draw with Southampton last week, also faces a battle to get a starting spot.

    Chelsea spent in the region of £222m in the transfer window and Ziyech is now competing with Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount for a spot in Frank Lampard's attacking midfield positions.

    "For us, it's everything new and we're excited to work with each other and the rest of the team, and bring each other competition," he said.

    "I think it's good for everybody to make each other better, helping each other. I think that's the most important and for us now, when we arrived, it's time to improve and to perform for the things we came for."

  • Pickford 'really sad' over Van Dijk injury but did not mean to hurt him, insists Ancelotti Pickford 'really sad' over Van Dijk injury but did not mean to hurt him, insists Ancelotti

    Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti insists Jordan Pickford had no intention of hurting Virgil van Dijk, with the goalkeeper "really sad" over the injury suffered by the Liverpool defender.

    The reigning Premier League champions face the prospect of being without the centre-back for the majority of the season after he damaged knee ligaments during the Merseyside derby.

    Van Dijk was caught by a heavy challenge from Pickford in the early stages of the game at Goodison Park, though the England international received no punishment from the officials - both those on duty at the game and also the video assistant referee watching on from afar - following the incident.

    Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum branded the tackle as "completely stupid" before the Champions League game with Ajax in midweek, but Ancelotti has defended his player.

    Speaking ahead of Everton's game at Southampton, the Italian wished Van Dijk well in his recovery from surgery but made clear any suggestions of premeditation on Pickford's part are wide of the mark.

    "To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury of Virgil van Dijk," Ancelotti told EvertonTV. "Every one of us hopes he can recover soon and well.

    "There was this contact with Jordan Pickford: it was mistimed contact. But the fact the Premier League is so fast, it is not so difficult to arrive a little bit later.

    "Jordan arrived a little bit later but his intention was to try to reach the ball. It was not to hurt Virgil van Dijk.

    "To say it was premeditated, and this and that, in my opinion, is too much. Virgil van Dijk knows this.

    "Jordan is really sad, really disappointed [that Van Dijk is injured]. It was a strong contact, maybe mistimed, but sometimes in football it can happen."

    Ancelotti also revealed that James Rodriguez is set to miss the game against the Saints with an injury suffered in a challenge with Van Dijk before the Dutchman was substituted.

    Both James and captain Seamus Coleman - who came off during the 2-2 draw with the Reds - are likely to sit out Sunday's trip to the south coast, though Jonjoe Kenny is available again.

     "Unfortunately, James had a problem during the game [against Liverpool]," Ancelotti said.

    "He had a mistimed tackle with Virgil van Dijk at the beginning of the game and I think he will not be available for the game against Southampton."

    James has been outstanding since moving to the Premier League from Real Madrid, scoring three goals and providing a trio of assists for his new employers.

    The Colombian playmaker has created 15 chances in total for his team-mates, while also completed 87.55 per cent of his attempted passes.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.