Liverpool won a game and all is suddenly right with the world.
The Reds booked a Champions League quarterfinal berth with a 4-0 aggregate win over RB Leipzig, a welcome distraction from a troubled league campaign where they currently languish in 7th place.
One of the standouts in Wednesday’s 2-0 second leg win was the much-maligned Thiago. The marquee summer signing from Bayern Munich has had a difficult debut campaign for the Reds, at times struggling to adapt in a midfield missing some of its other world class components amidst a severe injury crisis
However, Fabinho’s return to the engine room back from defense against Leipzig as the all-conquering holding midfielder of yore was clearly liberating for Thiago further up field. The Reds’ no. 6 registered seven tackles, three interceptions, an acrobatic bicycle kick, some magical footwork and would’ve bagged an assist or two but for better finishing.
The 29-year-old expressed both a degree of satisfaction with the performance and hope that the team can use the result to kick on in the league as the hunt for top four draws closer to its endgame:
“I think we deserve to celebrate and to be happy with something,” he said speaking to the club website. “And from now on have this feeling that we have right now. And with that, we can win all the games that we have left.
“It’s been a tough period for all of us because in our worst nightmares we didn’t expect that we are now in this position in the Premier League.
“But we are trying to perform as best as we can and try to get better in every training session. I think this performance is a positive thing for all of us.
Named in last season’s FIFA World XI for his performances with Bayern’s treble-winning side playing as a single pivot, the Champions League winner has had to adjust to a more advanced role under Jürgen Klopp.
An inkling of what a midfield including Thiago was supposed to have looked like was on display on Wednesday when the Spaniard and Gini Wijnaldum brought control and creativity to the middle of the park while Fabinho shielded the defense further back.
Midfield has historically been the most difficult position for new signings to acclimate to in a Klopp side. Combine that with an injury crisis that has seen midfield stalwarts such as Fabinho and Jordan Henderson thrust into defense and it is little wonder even a world class player like Thiago has struggled.
However, while some criticism of Thiago’s performances to date have been warranted, Klopp continues to back the midfield maestro in his position further forward and the midweek showing was another insight into how a healthy Liverpool engine room might function in the future.
“For sure, because you are always near the goal,” Thiago said of his advanced positioning. “You can create chances and you can score. So it’s a nice position as well.
“You can split it up a bit and move some lines forward, and you can be more confident and play with the strikers.
“He [Fabinho] is a great player. He gives us a lot of confidence on our backs and it’s awesome to play alongside him.”