He may not have started but there was a name on everyone’s lips before Liverpool faced Newcastle at St James’ Park.
For the first time since October, the world-class midfielder was included in Jurgen Klopp’s Matchday Squad and fans were immediately desperate to see him in action.
The Spain international started off on the bench, but calls for his introduction into the game did not end at half-time as the Reds seemed to need an injection of creativity.
Klopp decided his first change should be Gini Wijnaldum for Curtis Jones, but his second came 16 minutes from time in the form of his No.6 superstar.
Almost immediately, Thiago started leading the ragged Newcastle defense as he showed off his cutting ability with the ball at his feet and his ability to operate on a different planet from everyone around him.
His sensational passing, movement, timing and skill at dictating the game saw the Reds start carving out luck after luck only for the heroic Karl Darlow to produce more astonishing saves to turn down the champions.
If that’s what he can do in just over 15 minutes after a three month absence, imagine what it will be like when he’s had a run on the team and he’s playing 90.
Crossing must improve
A distinguishing feature of Jurgen Klopp’s setup at Liverpool sees marauding full-backs delivering vicious crosses in the path of world-class forwards or in that ‘corridor of uncertainty’.
But that was not the case at Newcastle.
Time and time again, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have missed opportunities for wide positions after the Reds pulled away.
Underhit. Overhit. Lost. Miscued.
Deliveries just weren’t good enough throughout the first 25 minutes – other than a lavish pass from Alexander-Arnold to Mane and a nice ball from Robertson to Roberto Firmino.
The Reds started spinning the dial after about half an hour and the deliveries started to find their target, one or two tricky turns were whipped into the danger zone and Mane placed a magnificent bullet over Firmino’s head in downtime at the end. from the first.
Things improved a bit in the second half as well – there were two huge opportunities for Firmino to come home from the corners only for Darlow to make bigger saves – but overall he has to be better of the day. share Premier League champions to make sure they make the most of their glorious opportunities.
Of course, you can’t expect every delivery to come at sixpence – although you’re pretty used to that – but you can expect more production given that this is a such dominant tactic in Liverpool and the number of opportunities offered to players. to put the ball in it.
If Liverpool have any hope of retaining their Premier League title, the crossing is something that needs to come close to its previously unfathomable level.
Virgil van Fabinho asks about the transfer
The fact that Fabinho has integrated so perfectly into the heart of the defense from the midfielder after Liverpool lost the best center-back and one of the most talented center-backs in world football, is nothing short of sensational.
Once again against Newcastle, he showed masterful technique down the middle of the Reds backline.
The Brazil international commanded and held the defense together at times when Newcastle were threatening, producing an excellent block at the right time as Callum Wilson beat Nat Phillips.
He was excellent in the air and made some important decisions – one being to take a yellow card in the second half when isolated with DeAndre Yedlin breaking and thus foiling a Newcastle attack.
Fabinho is so important to Liverpool, but it again raises the question of whether Klopp and Michael Edwards are due to enter the transfer market in January.
Liverpool FC highlights
He’s playing out of position and his talent could be put to better use in midfield, especially alongside Thiago.
Of course, as a professional model he won’t complain about doing his job excellently for Liverpool, but given his talent, he certainly deserves to play in his best natural position.
The question of transfer
On the verge of having to enter the transfer market, you have to think that Liverpool have serious discussions behind the scenes as to whether or not to bring in a defender when the transfer window opens tomorrow.
The Reds are in the midst of a well-documented injury crisis at the back and the defense looked very uncertain at first with Nat Phillips sometimes exposed and Andy Robertson in need of treatment from the physio against Newcastle.
Had he been more seriously injured, Liverpool would have even more problems at the back given that Kostas Tsimikas was also absent, but the Scotland captain was seriously concerned.
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That’s not to say the Reds need another left-back, but rather that a player like James Milner would have to replace the left flank and therefore would not be available in midfield.
Milner was excellent in the 0-0 draw on Wednesday and it gave Klopp a rest for Gini Wijnaldum, so it’s more to think of than not bringing a versatile defender, who mainly plies his trade in the middle, to cover create problems elsewhere, as Fabinho is already in situ far from the engine room as well.