Thiago Alcantara is a Philippe Coutinho-esque presence for Liverpool and has remained the Reds’ best player over recent weeks despite questions being asked of his value, says John Barnes.
The Spain international playmaker has endured a testing start to his time in English football.
Covid-19 and untimely injury struggles prevented the former Bayern Munich playmaker from making an immediate impact on Merseyside, and he is playing catch-up as a result.
Jurgen Klopp has been handing out regular minutes of late, but some have suggested that Thiago is not suited to the Reds’ system and has been slowing them down.
Barnes is not buying that, with a classy 29-year-old considered to be making things tick – as Brazilian schemer Coutinho once did – and Liverpool’s struggles are being put down to collective failings.
“Every time Thiago Alcantara has played for Liverpool this season he’s been the best player on the pitch,” Liverpool legend Barnes told BonusCodeBets.
“It just so happens that when he plays, the team hasn’t performed too well recently, which makes people think that it’s his fault. You must look at the way the team plays, and the fact that he’s going to be their main playmaker and it’s going to take time for the team to adapt to this.
“When Thiago has the ball, he moves it so quickly, but because the back four try to give him the ball every time, the ball isn’t moving forward as quickly to the front three as it should.
“He plays the ball quickly, but by the time he drops deep to collect the ball, those extra seconds have passed before the ball reaches the attacking players, which means the space and the time to get the ball is less.
“It was the exact same when Philippe Coutinho was at Liverpool, and the play always went through him every time too.
“By bringing in Thiago and making him our main playmaker, it will take time for the team to get used to the new game plan.
“It’s not a thing that the front three are suddenly bad players. When you play a midfield three of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, they play the ball much quicker as a team, and Liverpool have been playing this way for a few seasons now.
“Thiago has been our best player, and he’s a wonderful player to watch. But, if you change the way we play, then it’s going to take time for the team to adapt.”
Liverpool, who have gone five games without a win in the Premier League and failed to find the target in four of those outings, will be back in FA Cup action on Sunday when they take in a heavyweight fourth-round clash with Manchester United.