Former Red Didi Hamann had some bizarre comments on Thiago Alcantara last week. He said: "For me, Thiago is one of the most overrated players in European football.
"When things are going well and you have a lot of possession he's a good player, but when push comes to shove you don't see him. If you need someone who sets accents, then he doesn't do it."
Hamann's comments have understandably upset some Liverpool fans as Thiago was definitely one of our best players last season.
The former Red's opinion is indeed a strange one - let's take a deeper look into how impactful Thiago actually is for Liverpool.
He sets the tone in the midfield
Hamann's comment on Thiago 'not setting the accent' could not be more off the mark. In his debut game for Liverpool when he came off the bench against Chelsea in 2020, the Spaniard created a Premier League record for most passes in a single half with 75 successful passes.
That was just the sign of things to come as Thiago has shown us his best version in the season that just ended. Take a look at three important passing statistics as well as the progressive carries category for the midfielder as compared to other players in his position across Europe (via Fbref):
He was never known for assists
His defensive contribution is underrated
Thiago's defensive contribution is an elite (and often underrated) part of his game and that hasn't changed since his move to Liverpool.
While Thiago is not the best tackler in the world as he has a subpar discipline record with the Reds (averaging one foul a game and collecting five yellow cards in the Premier League), his knack for intercepting the ball and pressuring opponents is often underrated.
He makes close to 20 pressures per game and was successful in 37% of his pressing actions last season, the second-highest success rate of his career. Moreover, he ranks amongst the top ten percentile in tackles made per game, as well as averaging 2.45 interceptions per game.
In contrast, here are Fabinho's stats in these three categories:
Fabinho makes fewer tackles and interceptions per game and Thiago is a huge reason for that. Thiago takes the burden off Fabinho so Liverpool doesn't have to rely on their defensive midfielder only to defend.
What's more, Thiago's defensive actions lead to his offensive contribution. He's quick on transitions, so when he wins the ball he aims to play it forward instantly. The nightmare scenario for the opposition is when Thiago cuts off an entire line and moves the ball up the pitch -- Bundesliga players know.
The stats prove that Thiago is a complete midfielder with a high influence on the game despite a few number of assists. He playmakes from the deep and statistically does more defending than Fabinho.
Hamann was way off the mark in claiming that Thiago is overrated - if anything, the Spaniard deserves more appreciation for how well he has adapted to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. Liverpool are lucky to have Thiago in their squad.
Source: Fbref, WhoScored, Tribuna.com