How did Arthur Melo perform for Liverpool U21 as Thiago Alcantara’s future plan falters

Arthur Melo made his second Liverpool Under-21 appearance in four days against Rochdale in the Papa John’s Cup.

Arthur Melo must have never expected that he would show up against Rochdale in his career when he plays for Barcelona or moves to Juventus for €72m.

In fact, he probably had never heard of Greater Manchester clothing until a couple of days ago. After all, why is he?

However, Arthur knows all about the second-league bunker team now. Indeed, Spotland will be etched into his memory.

The midfielder made his second appearance for the Liverpool Under-21 team in just four days in a bid to boost his fitness levels.

Arriving at Anfield on a season-long loan from Juventus on the day of the transfer deadline, Arthur – the response to the Reds’ injury crisis – lacked match intensity.

After old lady coach Massimiliano Allegri left him out in the wild over the summer, his usual pre-season regime was severely disrupted. In an effort to push himself into Jurgen Klopp’s plans after the international break, Arthur is doing everything he can.

It contrasts with reports in Italy that Klopp has already written off the Brazil international and is ready to bring him back to Juventus in January. Obviously, Arthur wants to make his mark on Merseyside.

This is underlined by his being the only first-team player to make a trip to Rochdale for a Papa John’s Trophy match.

Arthur Melo in the Liverpool U-21 match against Rochdale. Photo: Amos Wayne

The only other player to have outlived him was Jay Spring, who was brought back to Liverpool in the summer specifically as a coach and to provide experience in under-21 matches.

Instead, he was surrounded by young people he barely knew. Only Stefan Bajcetic, who has been a regular on the bench for Klopp this season, will be a familiar face.

Arthur’s opponent was the Rochdale outfit, which sits at the bottom of the 92 clubs in the Football League.

The starting line-up included the likes of 37-year-old Ian Henderson, who was a prolific goalscorer in the lower leagues, and 34-year-old goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell – who has represented 16 teams in his career.

This wasn’t the kind of test Arthur scored for a week, a week out. He will have designs to display at the completely sold-out Anfield stadium as well as matches on the road in the Premier League and Champions League.

But after playing Leicester’s kids on Saturday, he faced the top players against Dale.

Perhaps he lacked the quality he was used to. But Rochdale was filled with veterans who gave Arthur the required physical exam.

The 26-year-old’s cameo in the 63rd minute in the 1-0 loss would have benefited him greatly. His performance was correct.

The statistics of Arthur Melo for Liverpool U21 against Rochdale. Photo: Sofascore

In total, Arthur had 47 touches to the ball (via Sofascore). He tried 40 passes, succeeded 36 (90%).

The long balls sprayed by the 26-year-old were eye-catching. Four out of five found their intended target.

Regarding his defensive duties, Arthur won three of four ground duels, while being fouled twice.

Rochdale’s winning goal, thanks to Tahvon Campbell’s 82nd-minute finish, came after the former Gremio midfielder withdrew.

Arthur’s heat map showed that he mainly appeared in the eighth turn on the left side of the midfield. This is the position that Thiago Alcantara plays for Liverpool.

However, with Thiago having well-documented injury issues, it needs to be carefully managed. Keeping the Spaniard fit will be critical to achieving the Reds’ ambitions this season.

With two consecutive games under his belt, Arthur will hope he can provide cover and competition when Liverpool’s season begins again.