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Jurgen Klopp has a shock Thiago successor compared to Andres Iniesta as Liverpool midfield fix

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Jurgen Klopp has a shock Thiago successor compared to Andres Iniesta as Liverpool midfield fix

At Liverpool, Thiago Alcântara is virtually unreplaceable. 

He is regarded as Jürgen Klopp’s only midfielder capable of dictating the course and tempo of a match almost entirely on his own.

When it comes to moving the ball forward, the Italian-born conductor is a natural. 

Thiago is the Premier League’s best midfielder at finding teammates in advanced areas, and the statistics show it.

In England’s top flight last season, the 31-year-old averaged 10.3 progressive passes per 90 minutes. 

A progressive pass is defined as a completed pass that moves the ball at least 10 yards towards the opponent’s goal from its furthest point in the previous six passes, or a completed pass into the penalty box.

On a per-90 basis, no player in Europe’s top five leagues averaged more progressive passes than him, with Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain coming in second.

His ability to move the ball forward will be missed at Anfield for the next month or so, as the Spanish international will be out for six weeks due to a hamstring injury suffered against Fulham on Saturday afternoon.

However, one unexpected player could step up and provide the progression that Thiago will be missing.

Klopp may have found a hidden gem in Harvey Elliott.

The 19-year-old is still learning his trade, but based on his performances in a red shirt since his debut last summer, he is another midfielder who prefers to move the ball forward.

Elliott only played 342 minutes in the Premier League last season due to a serious injury, but the progressive figures associated with his performances went unnoticed.

Based on his time on the field, the teen averaged 8.9 progressive passes per 90 minutes.

Only one player in the entire division — with at least 90 minutes under his belt — averaged more than that: Thiago, who averaged 10.3 per 90.

When compared to Europe’s best ball-movers, he averaged more than Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich, Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, and teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Elliott’s average would almost certainly have dropped if he’d played more minutes, but even so, it’s reasonable to believe he’d still rank as a very forward-thinking option in the middle of the park.

Elliott, who began his career as a forward rather than a midfielder, is naturally attack-minded, which may explain why he’s an instinctive creative passer in the center of the park.

“There is no such thing as like for like in football,” wrote Pep Lijnders, Klopp’s assistant, in his new book, Intensity. “But Harvey Elliott has some of the ingredients of Andrés Iniesta and thinks like a creative midfielder.”

Big praise for a big prospect, and with Thiago now on the sidelines, he may get a chance to show off his skills in the coming weeks.

Jurgen Klopp has a shock Thiago successor compared to Andres Iniesta as Liverpool midfield fix

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