Football

Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara ticks all boxes like Zico: Souness

Ex-Reds boss Souness believes Liverpool midfielder will be a success in EPL

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara's vision and passing range are reminiscent of Brazilian great Zico's in his prime and the 29-year-old ticks all the boxes to be a big success in the English Premier League, said former Reds midfielder Graeme Souness.

The Spain international joined EPL champions Liverpool from Bundesliga and Champions League winners Bayern Munich this month, and impressed in a 45-minute cameo during their 2-0 win over Chelsea.

"I suspect that many current Premier League players may find Thiago as difficult to deal with (as Zico)," former Liverpool captain and manager Souness wrote in his column for The Times.

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"I reckon Thiago should find British football a breeze because he's that good. Whenever you buy a player, as a manager, you're trying to eliminate risk.

"Thiago ticks all the boxes - tremendous work rate, vastly experienced, he's a creator but doesn't shy away from the hard yards either."

Souness said that Thiago's addition has put Liverpool on a different level than Arsenal, whom they face tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The London side finished eighth last season but have steadily improved under manager Mikel Arteta.

"If Thiago is a signing to top off a team that were already strong enough to retain the Premier League, then Arsenal are nowhere near challenging for it," Souness added.

"The knockout tournaments are again their best chance of success this season. Trying to retain the FA Cup, a decent run in Europe and maybe the Carabao (League) Cup."

Thiago, who could see more action against the Gunners, also has an admirer in Arteta.

"Incredible personality, great talent, very special, great qualities to play in midfield and yes, he is a great signing for Liverpool," said the Gunners boss.

Arteta, himself a classy midfielder during his playing days, has masterminded a revolution at Arsenal, which has seen them win the FA Cup, Community Shield and their opening two games of the EPL season.

However, the toughest test of what the Gunners can aim for this season comes tomorrow with a trip to Anfield, where Klopp's men have not lost in 60 league games.

Arteta described Liverpool's home as the "toughest place in the world" to go, but Arsenal can take confidence from two victories over the EPL champions in the past three months.

Last month, they beat Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield, after a 1-1 draw.

WINLESS SINCE 2012

Arteta's side are unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions, but face a huge challenge at Anfield where they have failed to record a win since 2012.

"I haven't been to Anfield with them yet but I'm expecting that every ground we go to, we're going to prepare for the game to win and that they realise they are good enough to do that," Arteta added.

"In big games, every detail is really important to get a win. When we have our opportunities, we have to take them."

Arteta is likely to have left-back Kieran Tierney available for selection, after he pulled out of last weekend's win over West Ham United as a precaution with a tight groin.

However, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Cedric Soares (both calf), Pablo Mari (ankle), Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring), Calum Chambers and Gabriel Martinelli (both knee) are all out of contention.

For Klopp, centre-back Joe Gomez should be fit for selection, but Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip (both muscle) remain sidelined. - REUTERS, AFP

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