This season, however, Jurgen Klopp’s team seems to be facing a tougher test. But this test is not necessarily set by rival teams.
Last season, Liverpool was unstoppable. In fact, not even a global pandemic could prevent the Reds from winning their first Premier League title ever.
Liverpool lost Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk to injury, and Jurgen Klopp will have to be creative in finding a solution.
Then, just when the Reds seemed to have calmed down after this devastating news, Fabinho suffered a hamstring problem.
First Alisson Becker and Jordan Henderson were forced into the physiotherapy room before Virgil van Dijk suffered an ACL injury that could exclude him for the rest of the 2020/21 campaign.
Injuries have been the biggest obstacle for Liverpool this season, with a number of key players spending time on the sidelines.
Having adapted after Van Dijk’s injury, Klopp now needs to adapt again and develop a strategy to make up for the absence of both the Dutchman in the middle of his defence and Fabinho in the middle of his midfield.
The Brazilian had stepped in for Van Dijk in the central defender and had equalized Liverpool in wins over Ajax and Sheffield United, so his injury came at the worst possible time.
Luckily for Klopp, Thiago Alcantara should soon be back in shape after an injury in the same Merseyside derby in which Van Dijk was down.
But the German coach has no time to feel sorry for himself.
The Spaniard could prove to be the solution to both problems and help Liverpool play in a different way that covers up some of their injury problems.
The 29-year-old is a true passing champion in the form that Klopp was lacking before. He is able to control a game from the deep end, pushing and pulling his Liverpool teammates higher on the pitch at will.
Thiago has already established himself as Liverpool’s most productive passer of the ball with an average of 80.5 passes per 90 minutes this season (according to WhoScore).
Despite their glaring defensive weaknesses, this method has made Barcelona’s great Pep Guardiola team one of the strongest defensive units in the game, and Thiago is the perfect figure to use for Liverpool.
He could also provide protection for Liverpool’s rearguards. Not by tackling and interceptions (although his average of 1.5 interceptions per 90 minutes is very respectable), but by keeping possession of the ball.
Of course, it has been a while since ‘Tiki-Taka’ was seen in its purest form at the elite level of the European game. Guardiola set the pace for an entire era of sport by declaring his belief in possession at all costs, but opponents eventually found effective ways to counter such ideas.
Tiki-Taka” lives on in the way elite technical football is today, but it had to be adapted over time.
The premise is a very simple one: if your opponent doesn’t have the ball, he can’t hurt you. Since Van Dijk may be out this season and Fabinho and Joel Matip have injury concerns, this strategy would protect the central defender in his absence.