Liverpool analysis – Thiago on different planet but Jurgen Klopp faces two transfer questions – Liverpool Echo

Thiago returns

He may not have started but there was one name on everybody’s lips before Liverpool faced Newcastle at St James’ Park.

Thiago Alcantara.

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 on the bench but calls for him to be introduced into the game had not died down by half-time as the Reds looked to be needing an injection of creativity.

Klopp decided his first change should be Gini Wijnaldum on for Curtis Jones but his second came with 16 minutes to go in the form of his superstar No.6.

Almost immediately, Thiago began to run the Newcastle defence ragged as he showed off his cutting ability with the ball at his feet and capability to operate on a different planet to everyone else around him.

His sensational passing, movement, timing and skill to dictate play saw the Reds begin to carve out chance after chance only for the heroic Karl Darlow to produce some more stunning saves to deny the champions.

If this is what he can do in just over 15 minutes after three months out, just imagine what it will be like when he’s had a run in the team and is playing 90.

Crossing must improve

A trademark feature of Jurgen Klopp’s set-up at Liverpool sees marauding full-backs delivering vicious crosses into the path of world-class attackers or down that ‘corridor of uncertainty’.

But this was not the case at Newcastle.

Time after time both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson wasted opportunities from wide positions after the Reds broke forward.

Underhit. Overhit. Misplaced. Miscued.

The deliveries just weren’t good enough throughout the opening 25 minutes – aside from one sumptuous pass from Alexander-Arnold to Mane and one lovely ball in from Robertson to Roberto Firmino.

The Reds did start to turn the dial after about half an hour and deliveries began to find their target, one or two tricky corners were whipped into the danger zone and Mane put across a wonderful ball onto the head of Firmino in stoppage time at the end of the first.

Things improved a little in the second-half too – there were two massive opportunities for Firmino to head home after corners only for Darlow to pull out more huge saves – but all-round it needs to be better from the Premier League champions to ensure they make the most of their glorious opportunities.

Of course, you can’t expect every single delivery to be delivered on a sixpence – despite becoming rather accustomed to that – but you can expect a greater output considering this is such a dominant tactic at Liverpool and the amount of opportunities the players are afforded to put the ball in.

If Liverpool have any hope of retaining their Premier League title, crossing is something that has to return close to its formerly unfathomable level.

Virgil van Fabinho prompts transfer question

The fact Fabinho has slotted so seamlessly into the heart of defence from midfield after Liverpool lost the best centre-back and one of the most talented centre-halves in world football, is nothing short of sensational.

Once again against Newcastle he showed a masterful technique in the middle of the Reds’ backline.

The Brazil international was commanding and held the defence together at times when Newcastle threatened, producing an excellent and well-timed block when Callum Wilson broke past Nat Phillips.

He was excellent in the air and made important decisions – one being to take a yellow card in the second-half when isolated with DeAndre Yedlin breaking and therefore thwarting a Newcastle attack.

Fabinho is just so important for Liverpool but it prompts a question again over whether Klopp and Michael Edwards need to enter into the transfer market in January.

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He is playing out of position and his talent could be put to even better use in midfield, particularly alongside Thiago.

Of course, as a model professional he’s not going to complain about doing his job excellently for Liverpool but surely given his talent he deserves to be playing in his natural and best position.

The transfer question

On the point of needing to enter the transfer market you’ve got to think Liverpool are having some serious discussions behind the scenes about 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 defence looked very unsure early on with Nat Phillips being exposed at times and Andy Robertson needing treatment from the physio against Newcastle.

Should he have been more seriously injured, Liverpool would be in even more trouble at the back given Kostas Tsimikas being out too but there was serious worry over the Scotland captain.

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That’s not to suggest the Reds need another left-back, but more to say that a player like James Milner would have to fill in on the left-flank and would therefore be unavailable in midfield.

Milner was excellent in the 0-0 draw on Wednesday and that afforded Klopp the chance to give Gini Wijnaldum a rest, so it’s more in thinking that not bringing a versatile defender, who predominantly plys his trade in the middle, to cover is going to create problems elsewhere, given that Fabinho is already in situ away from the engine room also.