Our new darling of Merseyside received plenty of praise following his outing against Chelsea on Sunday, but one man was the exception to this.
Thiago Alcantara was understandably welcomed with wide open arms to Anfield, in what was probably the first fully established player I’ve seen comes through the gates of Melwood since Fernando Torres in 2008. A stunning signing considering the finances involved.
He made his debut in what was a brief 45-minute cameo at Stamford Bridge. But opened our eyes to his elite level of passing, smashing a Premier League record in the process of completing more passes in that timeframe than any other player in history, as per Opta.
But there was an element of his game that former Republic of Ireland international Kenny Cunningham did not like, his tackling.
Speaking on the Off The Ball Football Podcast, he had some harsh words to say about his defensive duties.
“I think he will get game time, don’t get me wrong, to a certain extent in Champions League, cup games and certain league games”, he said.
“You saw a snapshot of it yesterday [Sunday], they had a man spare in that game and he was asked a couple of questions defensively and he just hadn’t got the answers. That challenge he made for the penalty, you can’t just close your eyes to that.
“That kind of decision-making, really, the alarm bells are screaming there. If I’m the manager or a player and I’m seeing that, I’m thinking ‘wow’. When the big games come along, when it really kind of matters, when we need somebody there who we can trust, be disciplined, see danger, sense danger, make good decisions, when to stay at your feet, when to go to ground and actually how to tackle. I don’t think technically, he actually understands how to tackle.”
This is quite bizarre considering he has played just 45 minutes of football in England and is a classic knee-jerk reaction.
Granted, he did only make one successful tackle in the entire game but Chelsea provided little threat going forward, due to the fact they only had 10 men. The Spanish playmaker was controlling the tempo of play from the moment he came on, which was a joy to watch.
So to almost nitpick at something so minor, seems pretty pointless. Even last season with Bayern, he averaged 1.9 tackles and 1.9 interceptions, as well as 3.4 challenges in the Champions League which was the highest for his team, as per Whoscored.
These stats prove he can be an efficient tackler of the ball and half a match does not give a true reflection on his defensive capabilities. While he did give away a penalty on Sunday, I am not too concerned going forward.