Thiago Alcantara-Position Analysis

Thiago Alacantara is a recently turned 24 year-old Spaniard.Alacantara is the son of Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho and the older brother of Barcelona youngster Rafinha.Thiago mainly plays as a central-midfielder for Bayer München in Germany.On Saturday he made his first professional start in over a year,following a knee ligament tear,on Saturday against Eintracht Frankfurt.Thiago showed glimpses of his talent and at times dictated the play.This article isn’t to dwell on Thiago’s superb talent,although I do concede how enjoyable that would be.This article is in fact to attempt to determine Thiago’s best position. 

Thiago progressed nicely through Barcelona’s famed La Masia as an attacking midfielder,however,on his breakthrough into the first team,Pep Guardiola found what a position which looked like it could compliment Thiago’s footballing abilities to the maximum.Thiago played in the ‘Number 8’ position,slotting in nicely when the legendary Xavi needed a rest or was injured.The more Thiago played,the more composed and comfortable he looked in his new role.As the season wore on and fantastic Thiago performances became more frequent,football fans around the world realised the talent this kid had.Next season,the 2011/12,began with a bang for Thiago,he started the Spanish Supercopa match against Real Madrid,putting in a brilliant performance in a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.After two more solid seasons with the Catalan club,a few European giants,including Manchester United and Bayern Munich came calling.

After a long summer of negotiating and decision making for Thiago,he finally decided to sign for Bayer München.His previous manager Pep Guardiola was now manager there and with possibly tutors such as Philip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger,Thiago’s reasons for the transfer were certainly understandable.Thiago made his debut for the club in a 4-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the DFL Supercup.Thiago quickly became a regular in the Bavarian’s starting line-ups,forming a brilliant midfield of Alacantara,Kroos and Lahm.Bastian Schweinsteiger’s place in the team was under serious threat due to the midfield’s outstanding performances.Schweinsteiger’s constant want to play vertical passes was limiting his playing time,Guardiola preferring a patient build-up,something Thiago excelled at.After solidifying his place in Bayern’s starting 11,Thiago began to impress football fans around the globe with his performances.He began to develop into one of the best young centre-midfielders in Europe,but sadly,his season was ended by a knee ligament tear.After suffering rehab for over a year.Thiafo returned to action against Dortmund,he came on as a substitute to help Bayern keep hold of their 1-0 lead.This was a real turning point in the game,Thiago calmed the game down and helped Bayern regain control of possession,his patience in build-ups really impacted negatively on Dortmund’s gegenpressing.


Below is a brilliant video by @AdinOsmanbasic,it is of Thiago’s wonderful performance,topped of with a beautiful scissor-kick,against Stuttgart.He is playing in the ‘Number 8’ role in the clip.

The clip below shows Thiago in all the positions mentioned below.

During his time at Bayern,Thiago has mostly played alongside Xabi Alonso or Phillip Lahm in a double-pivot.When playing Alonso,Thiago is often given more licence to go forward.With Lahm however,Thiago can often be seen operating as a deep-lying playmaker,him and Lahm taking turns to go forwards.Lahm often talks Thiago through the game,acting as an on-pitch mentor,this can only be positive in Thiago’s development.On his return from injury,Thiago has slotted straight into the Bayern line-up.He has again played in the ‘Number 8’ position,with Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger taking up deep-lying playmaker and box-to-box roles. When Xabi Alonso is back in the Bayern team,he will take Schweinsteiger’s place,allowing Lahm to move further forward,Alonso operating as deep-lying playmaker.Alonso is the short-term replacement for Toni Kroos,while Thiago is hotly tipped to be the long-term solution.During his time at Bayern,Thiago has mostly played alongside Xabi Alonso or Phillip Lahm in a double-pivot.

Now to the main topic,Thiago’s best position.Obviously,the area Thiago operates best in is the centre of the pitch but the options of positions in that area are almost endless.The main options for Thiago’s positions would be the following:
Defensive Midfielder/Recycler

Deep-Lying Playmaker

Number 8

Attacking Midfielder/Number 10

I will look at these in order from most defensive to attacking.

Under Tito Villanova at Barcelona,Thiago began to improve his defensive skills.He often supported Sergio Busquets in the defensive phase,something which he previously hadn’t done.So far during his time at Bayern,Thiago’s improved defensive and tactical skills have really shown,Pep Guardiola’s deployment of him in a deeper role has forced Thiago to be the one protecting Bayern’s defence.He has done well in this role but this doesn’t seem to be the right position for Thiago right now,however,with master tactician Pep Guardiola as mentor,his tactical brain will most certainly improve,an extremely useful attribute in the ‘Number 6’ role. 

This role is certainly one of the favourites for Thiago’s strongest position.His terrific range of passing could be taken advantage of in this role,the thought of Thiago spreading a wonderful pass to Bayern’s rapid wingers is enough to excite any Bayern fan.Playing in this role at a young age could limit Thiago’s development though.If he isn’t given an opportunity to showcase his attacking talents and skills then this could hinder his all round game.

The ‘Number 8’ role is the position Thiago has the most experience in.He mostly operated here during his time at Barça and has played here a number of times for Bayern.This position would give him freedom to roam forward or even dictate the play from deep if he wanted,this role would best be deployed in a midfield three,something Bayern currently use,meaning he it would be a perfect fit.The ‘Number 8’ role is arguably the best position for Thiago to play in just,as this would allow him to be a well-rounded player.

Thiago’s position as a youngster.This is the position that Thiago honed his skills in during his time in Barcelona’s youth academy.His eye of the needle skills served him well in this position,often making the final pass and crafting out a chance for a forward.The ‘Number 10’ role is often one taken by younger midfield players,this is because it is a good position to develop attacking attributes,there is time later on to develop physical attributes.

Thiago Alacantara is a very well-rounded central midfielder.He has terrific technical attributes as well as being tactically sound.The main area of his game that he needs to work on is his physicality.These two factors would point to the deep-lying playmaker role.However,playing in such a deep role at such an early age would limit Thiago’s use of certain attributes,his flair being the main one.A role Thiago is already comfortable in is the ‘Number 8’ role.The ‘Number 8’ role is in my opinion Thiago’s best position just now,it allows him to develop all the needed attributes to become a very well-rounded midfielder as well as being a terrific asset to whatever team he plays for.Later in his career,Thiago could possibly mature into a deep-lying playmaker when he has all the necessary attributes.


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