Liverpool struggle at Everton without Thiago influence from deep

Jurgen Klopp's stars held to a goalless draw at Goodison Park

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Sometimes stats only tell half the story, even in a 0-0 draw.

Man-of-the-match Jordan Pickford made eight saves as he helped deny Liverpool another victory in this stuttering start to the new season at Goodison on Saturday, the most he has made in a league fixture when he hasn’t conceded.

Despite having 23 shots in the match, it was the first time Liverpool had not scored in a game in the calendar year of 2022 – a run of 25 matches.

They hit the woodwork three times and peppered the Everton goal until the last second but, in truth, all was not well in the Liverpool unit - not for the first time this season – with a key cog that steered the Scouse juggernaut to near-immortality last term missing in action. They simply do not look the same imposing proposition without Thiago Alcantara.

The atmosphere around Goodison Park was feral ahead of kick off, with that common English derby sound of a police helicopter whirling overhead prevalent.

Despite their imposing 12-year unbeaten run at Goodison, however, it was Liverpool who struggled to cope with the feisty atmosphere.

For all their possession and wealth of attacking talent on the pitch, a week after plundering nine goals at home, they just looked shorn of ideas.

Darwin Nunez’s improvised effort that came out off the post was purely about individual brilliance, as was the follow-up strike from Luis Diaz.

Their efforts at goal in the second half after the break came from set pieces, snap shots from the edge of the box or poor Everton defending.

Not one of Liverpool’s attacks came about after a fizzing pass, or a slick, aesthetically pleasing move. Without Thiago in the team, Liverpool just don’t tick the same, without that first pass to break the lines.

Before the start of last season, Thiago was seen as a luxury player, someone every team would want to be able to call upon for the style and finesse he brings to the game, but not one who could win you a match out of nowhere.

Few can caress a football like the Spain international, with his Brazilian heritage clear for all to see whenever he steps on to a pitch, but injury problems hampered his opening season at Liverpool, adding to the sense he was just a good option to have.

Fast forward 12 months, having added the intensity to his game that Jurgen Klopp insists upon, Thiago is a different beast altogether, one who is one of the first names on the Liverpool teamsheet.

Their ageing other options just cannot provide the same quality from deep with their passes. Even first team choices who were absent against Everton – Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita – can bring the fire, but not anything like the level of ball-playing ability that Thiago does, while that is not Fabinho’s game.

Harvey Elliot has all the potential to be a great Liverpool player for many years but is still raw, while the same goes for Curtis Jones. James Milner cannot go on forever and new loan signing Arthur Melo remains unproven.

And that is your lot in midfield. Any other season and that would be seen as plentiful options for any manager to have, but with Manchester City having raised the bar so high, a Thiago-less Liverpool just cannot compete with such a near-imperious side.

Thiago is scheduled to return soon, but with the footballing calendar as unrelenting as ever due to the winter World Cup, Klopp will need to wrap up such an asset in cotton wool, or face having to beat teams with more moments of individual brilliance, and fine, flowing team goals may become an altogether rarer occurrence.

Updated: September 03, 2022, 3:01 PM
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