Transfer Talk podcast: Have Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool now evolved after their summer spending?
27 September 2020, 10:17 | Updated: 27 September 2020, 16:17
The arrival of Thiago Alcantara will help Liverpool's "evolution" under Jurgen Klopp as they look to retain their Premier League crown.
Alcantara arrived for an initial £20m from Bayern Munich earlier this month and made his Reds debut from the bench in their 2-0 win at Chelsea last weekend, and despite giving away a penalty on his Premier League bow, impressed Jurgen Klopp enough for his manager to describe his performance as "top" after the game.
After a slow start to the summer transfer window, Liverpool have now spent more than £75m on the arrivals of Thiago, Diogo Jota and Kostas Tsimikas as they look to retain the Premier League trophy they won by 18 points last season - with Jota the largest outlay the Reds have spent on adding depth to their front three under Klopp's tenure by some margin.
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Speaking on the Sky Sports Transfer Talk podcast, European football journalist Tom Williams said he felt the arrival of Thiago would add an extra dimension to a side which has already gone a long way to developing its own style since Klopp walked through the doors at Anfield in October 2015.
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"I think [Liverpool are evolving] - particularly in the arrival of Thiago," he said. "When Klopp first arrived five years ago, Liverpool were quite a chaotic team. We all know Klopp's philosophy of heavy-metal football and they were a team that ran and pressed an awful lot. They scored a lot of goals but also conceded a lot of goals. What we've seen in the last couple of seasons is Liverpool becoming a much more canny team.
"Their game management has improved quite a lot to the extent that last season they won a lot of games where you struggled to figure out how they managed to do it.
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"They weren't always super impressive, and they weren't blowing teams off the park and yet they were 25 points clear at the top of the table because they'd required this ability to do just enough to get over the line in games.
"Buying a player like Thiago gives you that control and enables you to hold onto the ball a bit better. If they need to take the sting out of a game and be a bit clever, there's no better player in the world than Thiago in that position and in that specific role."
Will Jota replace Firmino?
Despite Jota's arrival representing one of the most expensive transfers of the Klopp era, Sky Sports News' Dharmesh Sheth told the podcast he felt the ex-Wolves forward would have to play back-up, at least at first, for a Liverpool front three which has remained largely immovable since Mo Salah joined the club in 2017.
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"The front three is set in stone for the moment," he said. "I think what was always levelled at Klopp and Liverpool was if there was a good enough fall-back option if anything happened to the front three. I don't see him replacing Firmino immediately. Despite his lack of goals, I think Klopp is well of the industry and guile he brings to the team.
"Mo Salah and Sadio Mane know just how important he is to the side. I remember when Emile Heskey went to Liverpool and every Liverpool player to a man would say he's the ultimate team player and that he was amazing to play alongside because he made space for everyone else. Firmino has a different style of play but he brings the same selflessness to the team."
Jota played some part in all-but four of Wolves' Premier League games last term, starting 27, but Williams feels the intensity and relentless fixture congestion as a result of the delayed start to 2020/21 will give the Portuguese forward enough of an opportunity to make a name for himself at Anfield.
He said: "The fee is slightly eyebrow-raising given that we know he's principally been signed as a back-up player but at the same time, we know how dependent Liverpool are on their front three. Whenever any of the front three isn't available or isn't working and Jurgen Klopp has turned to the bench, there hasn't been much there.
"Divock Origi has become this cult hero on Merseyside, scoring goals against Everton, Barcelona and in the Champions League final, but there is a gap between him and the front three. Takumi Minamino is bedding in, Xherdan Shaqiri has had injury problems, so I think Jota is a level above what Liverpool had on the bench previously.
"Given the amount of games they're going to have to play and the accumulation of fatigue as a result of a peculiar set of circumstances we've had this year, he can expect a lot of game times. He's so versatile and is two-footed so he's the sort of player that Klopp will like with his pressing game. Even if he's not starting, I think Klopp will turn to him on the bench quite regularly."