Thiago Alcantara is set to miss around six weeks due to a hamstring injury suffered against Fulham in the opener of the Premier League season. While many fans on social media work themselves up into a frenzy over the need to strengthen midfield options, manager Jürgen Klopp has already said the club won’t make a panic signing because of it.
Anyone who’s followed the club during Klopp’s time in charge shouldn’t be surprised, as the manager is loathe to carry a bloated squad and in the past has repeatedly said he won’t sign players simply to cover for short-term injuries—not when by the time any new player was signed and brought up to speed the injured player would be playing again.
The manager’s mantra has always been that new signings must make sense not only for the nextmonth but for the entire season, something he reiterated in the wake of Thiago’s injury. It’s also worth noting that Thiago missing six weeks isn’t unexpected—though the timing, coming as it did in game one, can’t help feeling additionally bothersome.
Last season, setting aside a brief absence due to Covid, Thiago missed 20 games due calf, hip, and thigh issues. The year before—and again setting aside Covid issues—he missed 17 games with a knee injury. All players get injured, and Thiago’s injury record being perhaps worst than most is a known tradeoff for what he brings to the club when fit.
Part of the reason for heading into a season with nine midfield players for three positions is that some of them are injury prone and some are older. If that weren’t the case, carrying nine midfielders wouldn’t be tenable, especially not for a manager like Klopp who doesn’t abide keeping extra depth around when that depth will never get to play.
While a player picking up an injury with a projected six-week layoff in the first week is bad, from a fixture density point of view now might well the best time for it with the Reds only playing one game a week for the first four weeks—meaning that the first of the three weeks Thiago will now miss will only see him miss out on three league games.
If he returns six weeks after picking up his injury, Thiago could be back in action by the weekend of September 17th—optimistically making him a bench option for that Sunday’s game against Chelsea on the 18th. If that happens, he will have missed six Premier League games and the first two rounds of the Champions League due to injury.
Later in the season, when the Reds are playing twice a week every week, those eight games could easily have been 12 instead. Which isn’t to suggest Thiago’s injury isn’t a problem—and coming as it does at the start of the season could negatively impact Liverpool’s ability to set the tone and build momentum for a presumed title race.
Simply it is an acknowledgement that had it come later, he would have missed more games. And that his injury record is such that it will have been expected he would miss a stretch like this—and likely a second at some point—and the so squad options, while not to every fan’s liking, do show signs of being constructed with this in mind.
Further, regardless one’s personal feelings about the depth options at Jürgen Klopp’s disposal, it’s clear both based on his past statements and his reaction to Thiago’s injury in the present that we really shouldn’t expect a mad dash to sign another midfielder when that midfielder would be getting up to speed just as Thiago returns to action.
Under his extremely successful tenure, one that has seen the Reds establish themselves as one of the top sides in the world and go toe-to-toe with a sportswashing front for a human rights abusing petrostate, Liverpool don’t do stop-gap or short-term signings. If you can’t at least make peace with that, you might be following the wrong club.