Tsimikas for Robertson a Liverpool blessing in disguise? Klopp’s top creator gets his chance

Will Ford
Tsimikas Robertson Liverpool
Kostas Tsimikas looks set for a run in the Liverpool team after Andy Robertson's injury.

Reported as a significant blow for Liverpool, could Andy Robertson’s shoulder injury prove to be a blessing? Kostas Tsimikas is pretty good, y’know.

Kostas Tsimikas joined Liverpool knowing he was going to be a backup. The Reds had just won the Premier League when he arrived in the summer of 2020, and Andy Robertson – his competition for a spot in the starting XI – had been named in the PFA Team of the Year having racked up 12 assists.

He and Trent Alexander-Arnold were widely considered to be among the most important cogs in Jurgen Klopp’s winning machine, producing consistently brilliant performances as raiding full-backs that could deliver crosses onto dinner plates. At £10m from Hull City, many might argue Robertson is the club’s greatest ever Premier League signing.

Tsimikas wouldn’t make it into a top ten, but he’s proven to be smart business all the same. £11m sounds like a lot for peace of mind, but it’s not easy to find a player who’s both happy to watch from the sidelines and able to slot in admirably when called upon. He will no doubt argue he’s deserved more opportunities.

His assist for Greece against Ireland was perfectly timed. Robertson had trudged off the pitch in Scotland’s defeat to Spain the previous night with his arm in a makeshift sling to the despair of Liverpool fans ahead of the Merseyside derby, but up popped Tsimikas with a run down the left and a pinpoint cross for Georgios Giakoumakis to bury a header.

Robertson and Alexander-Arnold have just one assist between them in the Premier League this season. Mohamed Salah (four) currently leads the way ahead of Virgil van Dijk (two) and Darwin Nunez (two). The lack of influential creativity from the full-backs hasn’t proven to be too great an issue thus far – 18 goals from eight games is a perfectly reasonable return. And it would be churlish to suggest Robertson hasn’t been performing well, if not in quite the same conspicuous way as previous years.

But Tsimikas will smell an opportunity and the Greece international could provide a welcome creative boost for Klopp’s side.

Robertson is delivering fewer passes (0.50) and crosses (0.38) into the penalty area than in any previous season, with highs of 1.90 and 0.72 respectively. He averages 0.49 goal-creating actions per game in his Liverpool career, down to just 0.25 this season. He’s also never carried the ball into the final third less and is remarkably yet to dribble into the penalty area, despite doing so 0.42 times per game in his time at Liverpool.

Those stats suggest a more typical, pre-Klopp full-back role for Robertson, and more tackles (1.25) and clearances (2.63) this season than ever before add weight to that assertion. The Scotland international’s first thought is now to defend.

The summer midfield revamp is key to that alteration in style. Liverpool now have Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister to open doors that Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and whomever else didn’t, and it was clear last season if not before that Klopp’s side was suffering defensively because of the desire of the full-backs to get forward at any given opportunity. With different avenues through which to create, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold are now ‘proper full-backs’.

Kostas Tsimikas Liverpool
Kostas Tsimikas has played second fiddle to Andy Robertson throughout his Liverpool career.

Tsimikas would be too. It’s not as though he would be given license that Robertson hasn’t. But he might be more effective.

No player to have played more than 2,500 minutes under Klopp at Liverpool has a better assist rate than Tsimikas: 292 minutes per assist for the 27-year-old, compared to 373 for Robertson and 323 for Alexander-Arnold.

Assisting may no longer be Full-Back 101 at Liverpool, but if (and it’s admittedly a very big if) Tsimikas can do the other stuff – tackling, tracking runners, playing offside, breaking the press – as well as Robertson, the backup could become the starter if his attacking output remains superior in Robertson’s absence.

Tsimikas should at the very least see this as a golden opportunity to stake his place in the starting XI beyond Robertson’s return to fitness. The Scotland international is brilliant, but there’s now a clear chink in his armour that the alternate to exploit.