The newly crowned champions of England are in pursuit of the Bayern Munich midfielder, the reports suggest. Bayern Munich’s board has confirmed that the player will definitely leave the Bavarian capital this summer with the red part of Merseyside being a possible destination.
The 29-year-old has expressed his admiration for the Premier League and seems to be ready for a new challenge after spending seven years with the German champions. The Spanish international has entered the final year of his contract and the deal, if it goes through, would be worth around £30 million.
Jurgen Klopp is certainly not short of options in the central midfield area with the likes of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Georginio Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner at his disposal. However, none of them can really offer the creativity and passing intelligence that is required for smooth and silky ball progression through the middle. In contrast to Liverpool’s midfielders, the ‘La Masia’ academy graduate possesses an incredibly broad passing skill-set that allows him to spread the ball around in every possible manner. A combination of Thiago’s passing and flawless technique with both feet could take Liverpool’s midfield to the next level and provide them with a ‘plan B’ regarding their playing philosophy.
In contrast to Liverpool’s midfielders, Thiago Alcantara possesses an incredibly broad passing skill-set and flawless technique.
Under Klopp, Liverpool have been renowned for their directness and attacking with pace, but sometimes were perceived as lacking a different approach when struggling to unlock the opposition defences. For this reason, the 29-year-old could certainly prove to be a needed alternative to Liverpool’s current style of play.
Watch: This is why Liverpool are chasing Thiago Alcantara
Thiago vs Liverpool’s midfield – what is the difference?
After watching many games of Thiago in a Bayern Munich shirt, it is noticeable that the Spaniard would add something else to Liverpool’s midfield. The following data analysis will provide the insight into the Spaniard’s key playing characteristics.
As for any central midfield player, passing and its accuracy is of paramount importance. Therefore, starting with the passes per game and passing accuracy correlation, it can be seen that Thiago would be a solid addition. The Bayern’s midfield maestro performs the highest number of passes per game (76) out of analysed players. Adding to that, he is second for passing execution with 91% of passes performed reaching its targeted teammate and only behind Wijnaldum (92% pass completion). Nevertheless, the Dutchman on average performs only 44 passes per game, which is 32 fewer than the Spaniard. Consequently, Thiago’s passing accuracy is even more impressive when taking into account the number of passes he performs on average per game.
The next important consideration when looking at the players’ general passing metric is the characteristics of the passes. In order to reach the opponent’s penalty area, the team needs to move the ball vertically. As a result, progressive passes are a good indication of that. A pass is classed as a progressive when the ball moves towards the opponent’s goal at least ten yards from its furthest point.
The graph displayed below illustrates Thiago’s dominance in this category. The Spaniard performs on average 10.5 progressive passes per game, which is more than any Liverpool player. It denotes midfielder’s ability and vision to find the players in more advanced positions higher up the pitch which can be incredibly important for Liverpool’s vertical passing style.
Another important area to consider is the final destination of the progressive passes. In order to enter the penalty area, the ball first needs to arrive in the final third. Therefore, we correlate the progressive passes with passes that reach the opposition’s final third. We can see straight away that Thiago is ahead of everyone else performing an average of 9.4 passes into the final third per game. It is a good indication that Thiago’s progressive passes reach important zones of the pitch and the Spaniard would be more than comfortable finding the likes of Mane, Salah, and Firmino in those advanced areas.
The passes performed under pressure is another metric that can reveal how astute the central midfielder’s passing is. Once more, Thiago is ahead of all Liverpool midfielders in this category performing on average 17 passes under pressure per game. Even though this metric does not tell us about the accuracy of passes under pressure, it is still a good way to measure how much of a key figure the player is for ball distribution even in difficult circumstances.
The key passes metric for a central midfielder can provide information about the player’s ability to send the ball into dangerous areas from deep. This time, Thiago has felt short with a few Liverpool players showing better values for this metric. On average, Thiago performs a 1.77 key passes (second best) with an accuracy of 56% (fourth-best). Naby Keita’s quality on the ball is evident in this case with the Guinean international completing a whopping 76% of his key passes. In contrast, Henderson performs the most key passes among all Liverpool central midfielders; however, his key passes lack quality with only 46% of them reaching the targeted player.
Finally, as good as a central midfielder can be on a ball, he needs to fulfil his defensive duties as well. Liverpool are renown for their famous counter-pressing after losing the ball; therefore, any central midfielder who wants to play in a Klopp’s team must have the required qualities when the team is out of possession.
Keeping in mind Liverpool’s counter-pressing tactics immediately after losing the ball, the metrics of interceptions and ball recoveries were correlated. As it can be seen in the graph below, Thiago excels in this category as well. From the first look, a tidy and not the most physical Spaniard proves to be an astute ball-winner making on average 4 interceptions and 7 ball recoveries per game. This metric clearly shows that Thiago is a lot more than just a tidy passer of the ball. He also excels in other areas that are hugely important for Klopp and his philosophy.
On the whole, regardless of the potential outcome of this transfer saga, Klopp has already sent a strong message to his rivals that the Premier League champions will not stand still are looking for ways how to improve one of the best sides that the English football has witnessed.