How Arthur Melo performed for Liverpool under-21s as Thiago Alcantara future plan mapped out

Arthur Melo made a second Liverpool under-21s appearance in four days against Rochdale in the Papa John’s Trophy.

From rubbing shoulders with Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp to facing the club that languishes in the Football League's doldrums.

Arthur Melo must never have expected he would make an appearance against Rochdale in his career when playing for Barcelona or making a €72m transfer to Juventus.

In truth, he'd never probably even heard of the Greater Manchester outfit until a couple of days ago. After all, why would he?

Yet Arthur knows all about the League Two basement side now. Spotland, indeed, will be etched into his memory.

The midfielder made a second appearance for Liverpool under-21s in just four days in a bid to bolster his fitness levels.

Arriving at Anfield on a season-long loan from Juventus on transfer deadline day, Arthur - the answer to the Reds' injury crisis - was short of match sharpness.

Having been left in the wilderness by Old Lady boss Massimiliano Allegri over the summer, his usual pre-season regime was heavily disrupted. In an attempt to thrust himself into Jurgen Klopp's plans after the international break, Arthur is doing everything in his power.

It's an antithesis of reports in Italy suggesting that Klopp's already written the Brazil international off and is ready to send him back to Juve in January. Evidently, Arthur wants to make his mark on Merseyside.

That was underlined by being the only first-team player to make the trip to Rochdale for a Papa John's Trophy clash.

Arthur Melo in action for Liverpool under-21s against Rochdale. Picture: Amos Wynn

The only other overage player involved was Jay Spearing, who was brought back to Liverpool in the summer specifically as a coach and to provide experience in under-21 games.

Instead, he was surrounded by youngsters he'd barely know. Only Stefan Bajcetic, who has been a regular on Klopp's bench this season, would be a familiar face.

And Arthur's opponent was a Rochdale outfit that sits at the bottom of the 92 clubs in the Football League.

Included in their starting line-up were the likes of 37-year-old Ian Henderson, a once-prolific goalscorer in the lower leagues, and 34-year-old goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell - who’s represented 16 teams in his career.

This wasn't the sort of test Arthur signed up for week in, week out. He'll have designs on featuring at a sold-out Anfield along with games on the road in the Premier League and Champions League.

But having played Leicester kids on Saturday, he came up against fully-fledged senior pros against the Dale.

Short of quality he'd be used to, perhaps. But Rochdale were awash of veterans who gave Arthur the physical test required.

And the 26-year-old's 63-minute cameo in the 1-0 loss would have done him plenty good. His performance was sound.

Arthur Melo’s stats for Liverpool under-21s against Rochdale. Picture: Sofascore

In total, Arthur had 47 touches of the ball (via Sofascore). He attempted 40 passes, with 36 (90%) successful.

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

In terms of his defensive duties, Arthur won three of four ground duels, while he was fouled twice.

And Rochdale’s winning goal, courtesy of Tahvon Campbell’s 82nd-minute finish, came after the ex-Gremio midfielder had been withdrawn.

Arthur's heatmap showed that he primarily featured in the number-eight role on the left-hand side of midfield. That's the position that Thiago Alcantara plays for Liverpool.

However, with Thiago having his well-documented injury problems, he needs to be carefully managed. Keeping the Spaniard fit will be paramount to the Reds achieving their ambitions this season.

With two games in quick succession under his belt, Arthur will be hoping he can provide the cover and competition when Liverpool's campaign starts again.