Liverpool: The first six fixtures of the new Premier League season
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Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol has urged the club to dip into the transfer market to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, suggesting that Thiago Alcantara is not capable of filling the box-to-box role that was perfected by the Dutch playmaker during his time at Anfield. Wijnaldum failed to agree fresh terms with the Reds and was released at the end of last season before he was snapped up by Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
The 30-year-old was a crucial part of Liverpool’s recent Champions League and Premier League triumphs, making 237 total appearances for the club after joining from Newcastle United in 2016.
His absence will be sorely missed in the middle of the park by Jurgen Klopp’s side next season unless the German boss is able to replace him with a top-class operator.
It has been suggested that Liverpool may not need to spend a significant fee on Wijnaldum’s successor, with Thiago waiting in the wings to make the role his own.
The Spaniard played 30 times in all competitions last season but often struggled to replicate the form he showed at Bayern Munich to assert his dominance in the Premier League.
Thiago’s arrival upset the dynamic between Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Wijnaldum that fuelled Liverpool’s successes in previous campaigns, and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to dictate proceedings next time around.
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Nicol, who won nine major trophies with the Reds between 1981 and 1995, has implored his old club to sign a player capable of effectively replacing Wijnaldum rather than handing the opportunity to Thiago.
The 59-year-old questioned the latter’s ability to succeed as part of Liverpool’s midfield trio, suggesting that Manchester City could run away with the Premier League title once again unless the Merseyside club act quickly this summer.
“It’s difficult to go right now and find a player,” Nicol told the ESPN FC podcast.
“But I still think they need to go and get somebody who can play the way that Klopp did before Alcantara came.
“We all thought Alcantara was coming to give that little edge with a pass forwards, be a little bit more cute, and as much as he can bring that, I think that affects the middle three defensively.
“Teams were getting at Liverpool’s backline far too easily, the last six months of last season in particular with the injuries.
“I don’t have a player in my mind right now where I would say: ‘Go and sign this guy’. I just have a question [about] Alcantara as the man between Fabinho and Henderson.
“I think [Curtis] Jones can get better and do it eventually. I’m just not quite 100 per cent right now that, with what they have, they’ll be able to get after City.”
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Meanwhile, Thiago has already declared that his influence has been restricted by playing in a deeper role at Liverpool, suggesting last month that he feels more comfortable as an attacking playmaker.
“I would say it [my ability to create] has been more limited because of a positional issue,” the midfielder told L’Equipe.
“If I play No 6 instead of No 10, I’ll have less room to manoeuvre, less freedom to dribble, because I’ll have to take fewer risks.
“In the history of football, strikers have always been admired more than defenders. Because a defender can’t make a mistake, unlike the striker.
“So, for me, it’ s a question of position.”
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