FC Barcelona 2011/12 Season in Review: Thiago

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 29: Thiago Alcantara of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou on November 29, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 4-0. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Report: The 2011-12 season was Thiago's first as a full-time member of the first team. With the arrival of Cesc Fabregas it was believed Thiago would struggle to find playing time in Barcelona's star-stacked midfield but Thiago wasn't going to be denied. The youngster made a seamless transition from the B team to Pep Guardiola's team, making nearly as many appearances as Andres Iniesta and Fabregas.

Numerous times in the season Thiago showed he's a rare kind of talent. His ability to control the ball under pressure is difficult to find (in teams not called Barcelona) and his passing in extremely accurate. In fact Thiago led the entire league in successfully completed passes at 92.7%. His passing was even more accurate in the UEFA Champions League where he had a pass success rate of 93%.

Thiago started the preseason almost single-handedly winning Barcelona the Audi Cup scoring several stunning long range goals along the way. Thiago's long range accuracy (and attempts for that matter) disappeared during the regular season but he was still a constant threat with his pinpoint passing. I would prefer if Thiago would find the back of the net more often as he certainly has the talent to do so.

The youngster predominantly played in the center of the midfield, where he usually excelled, but Pep Guardiola also on a couple occasions used Thiago on the left wing. It was evident that he wasn't entirely comfortable in that position but nonetheless he still linked up with his teammates very well and was able to send some dangerous crosses into the penalty area. Thiago also showed that he has great heading ability for a man of his height (172cm).

Toward the end of the season Thiago was slowed down by a similar injury that stopped David Villa, although Thiago's didn't end in the gruesome way Villa's did, which was definitely noticeable on the pitch. One certainly can't blame him for not playing at full speed when being hurt but it was a shame that his season ended on such a sad note.

Sam Cooper's View: Looking for the future of Barcelona you can't help but focus on 21 year old Thiago. A future-Xavi, the young, determined Spaniard showed his potential to be one of the world's best last season. The Brazilian born midfielder played in 27 league games this season, a tough feat at such a young age and were it not for a tibia injury, he would've represented Spain at the London 2012 Olympics. Although he has not reached the assist tally that Xavi and Iniesta regularly rack up in a season, Thiago completed his La Liga campaign with four assists while scoring two himself.

Thiago also had a very good preseason for Barcelona. Including a beauty of a goal against Manchester United, (the goal comes at around 4:17) and Thiago is wearing the number 4 as Fàbregas had then not yet signed for the club. A glimpse of the potential this boy holds.

I'm excited to see Thiago's career take off in the way he deserves. His La Masia roots have made him technically adept and if he continues to show the promise he has done all season we could be speculating about the man who will be replacing him when he is 31.

Moment of the Season: From the top of my head I can remember two games where Thiago absolutely dominated the midfield. One was against the lower-division side L'Hospitalet and the other was against Villarreal. The one against Villarreal impressed me the most because he scored a goal and added two assists against a very good team (I know they were relegated but talent-wise the Yellow Submarine was better than three quarters of the Primera División sides). Thiago showcased everything in this game - his speed, his vision, his passing, and I could on. A sublime performance.

Barcelona Villareal 5 0 All Goals amp Highlights 29 8 2011 (via lionelanderssonmessi)

Stats:

Appearances 45
Games started 32
Started on the bench 27
Substitute in 13
Substitute out 8
Minutes played 3072
Goals scored 4
Assists 8
Shots 37
Shots on goal 15
Fouls committed 47
Fouls suffered 66
Yellow cards 5
Red cards 1

Record with Thiago in the starting lineup: 25-4-3

2012/13 Outlook: Thiago has been recovering from his injury since the end of the 2011-12 season but while he is making progress to return to the pitch the absence of positive news surely cannot be a good sign. Obviously it's better to take the safe route when it comes to injuries but Thiago is an important part of the team and will be counted on as the season progresses. If he does return soon after the season begins I would expect Thiago to improve on his last season's numbers but the most important thing right now is that Thiago recovers fully and doesn't try to force things.

Next Up: Sergio Busquets

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