Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is being given a very real dilemma by Kostas Tsimikas, who is making a greater case to be the team’s first-choice left-back for a sustained spell with every match he plays. Klopp has stated his loyalty to Andy Robertson – but that allegiance faces a test if Tsimikas continues to perform so well and his team-mate still struggles to replicate his best form.
The Greece international came back into the starting XI for his eighth appearance of the season, six of which have been starts, in Wednesday’s Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.
And Tsimikas maintained his excellent start to the season, matching Robertson’s work rate while also offering superb creativity and defensive solidity.
The club’s £11.75million purchase of the defender from Olympiacos looks more and more a masterstroke, Tsimikas now the perfect stand-in for Andy Robertson in his stylistic similarities.
Just as Liverpool have done time and time again with Michael Edwards as their sporting director, they have made the ideal addition at a very reasonable price.
Tsimikas struggled in his first year at Anfield but was admittedly hampered by injuries and illnesses and as a result played just 225 minutes across all competitions.
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He has already doubled that amount this term and is flourishing. The 25-year-old created three clear-cut chances within just a 13-minute spell against Atletico, and should’ve had an assist for a cross which Diogo Jota should’ve headed past Jan Oblak.
“Kostas Tsimikas with at least two crosses which we could’ve, should’ve, finished off,” said Klopp post-match.
By contrast, his rival Robertson has only created three clear-cut chances since February. No other Liverpool player has created three in a single match since January earlier this year.
Tsimikas has only played a total of 546 minutes but is averaging a clear-cut chance every 109 minutes, even beating Trent Alexander-Arnold’s average of 137 minutes (though the scouser has played almost doubled the minutes at 959).
But it is not just offensively though where Tsimikas is impressing, with Liverpool yet to concede a single goal this season when the defender is on the pitch.
On both sides of the ball, the Greek is currently outperforming Robertson, who has as many assists as his team-mate but has struggled for consistency so has largely been off of his outstanding best this term. Defensively there have been lapses and offensively he is not the tour de force of other campaigns – yet.
In fairness to the Scot, he is perhaps suffering merely from the staggering amount of football he has played in the past few seasons.
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He was the only player to appear in all 38 of Liverpool’s Premier League matches last season and he started every single one. Only seven outfield players – of a total of 478 to play at least one minute – racked up more minutes in England’s top flight last term.
Robertson also played every minute of Scotland’s three-game Euro 2020 campaign, as well as playing in every other game his country has played in 2021 since and before the Euros. If he’s tired, Liverpool can’t be disgruntled.
And they needn’t be either, for they now have a player who can provide – at least at this moment in time – superior performances on the pitch. That will of course change once Robertson returns to his best, and he will.
Yet at the moment Klopp is being posed an increasingly more difficult selection headache, with there a real argument that Tsimikas should start more of the upcoming matches. There are calls for him to start against West Ham on Sunday to combat the threat of Jarrod Bowen and Ben Johnson.
For now however, it looks like Klopp still favours Robertson and the manager teased his long-standing first-choice left-back will start in east London.
The German admitted: “Kostas is very close. Kostas has obviously a lot of quality. What does it mean, ‘Pushed Andy Robertson?’ He pushed Andy Robertson, he is doing that.
“But Andy Robertson is in my eyes probably the best left-back in the world so that makes it really tricky. But it’s good that we have the option that we can give Robbo a rest in moments, even when he doesn’t like it and doesn’t need it in his understanding.”
Klopp promises he will still let Tsimikas “free from time to time” but if Robertson doesn’t get back to his best sooner rather than later, the ‘Greek scouser’ as he calls himself on Instagram may be finding himself unleashed a lot more regularly.