Talking Tactics

Thiago's growing influence key to final top-four push

By Adrian Clarke 22 May 2021
Thiago, Liverpool

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A rejuvenated Thiago could  make the difference in Liverpool's vital final-day home match against Crystal Palace.

The Spaniard has been in mesmeric form in Liverpool's last two matches, dominating West Bromwich Albion and Burnley with his quality in and out of possession.

Performing with a renewed spring in his step the 30-year-old is tailor-made to wear down defensive opponents and move the ball around the field.

Facing a Palace side who will set up cautiously, the speed and incision of his distribution could be key to unlocking the space Liverpool’s attackers need to thrive.

Growing in confidence

It has been a challenging debut Premier League campaign for the former Bayern Munich midfielder but his confidence is visibly growing.

A positive by-product of his shift in self-belief is Thiago's increase in progressive forward passes.

Earlier this season he often played short passes, mostly inside the middle third and with little penetration.

In recent matches, however, Thiago has been braver in possession and regularly threads passes through to the feet of Jurgen Klopp’s front men.

Thiago's display at West Brom

Indeed, across the last 180 minutes of Premier League action he has picked out Roberto Firmino on 29 occasions.

During the same period Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have received the ball 15 and 11 times respectively. 

Klopp will encourage that trend to continue against the Eagles.

Tackler supreme

Thiago is Liverpool’s most prolific tackler in 2020/21, averaging 2.85 tackles per 90 minutes.

Like his positive passing, these ball-winning qualities could also be key if Liverpool are to pin Palace back inside their own half for sustained periods.

He will step forward to try his luck at goal too, especially after scoring his first Liverpool goal against Southampton on his last Anfield appearance. 

His forward run and sumptuous low strike into the bottom corner shows that Palace cannot afford him too much time and space inside the final third.

Thiago's growing influence
Opponent West Brom Burnley Season ave.
Tackles 4 2 2.85
Recoveries 7 7 7.33
Passes 106 93 83.48
Passes in opp. half 77 53 53.14
Key passes 5 0 1.48
Shots 4 2 1.12

The most recent victories against West Brom and Burnley reflect Thiago’s all-round impact for Liverpool.

If he can deliver another commanding display against Palace, Klopp’s men are likely to hang on to their top-four spot.

Thiago's value to the side is growing match by match and a victory on Sunday will provide further evidence of that.

Also in this series

Part 1: Werner's runs can help Chelsea to top-four finish
Part 2: Fofana and Ndidi crucial to chances of stopping Kane

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