THEiverpool has rewarded its star players with new offers this summer. Andy Robertson is the most recent to pen a new contract, following in the footsteps of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk as the club seek to protect their precious assets.
While that does mean there is less money to spend in the transfer market, tying up players who have won the club in the Champions League and Premier League is a steal. These actors are always crucial and they constitute the ideal base on which to build. Liverpool have a number of inexperienced players in the squad – including Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Ibrahima Konaté, a £ 36million new arrival from RB Leipzig this summer – so keeping the experienced crop will only help their development. .
Robertson deserves his new contract after another excellent campaign. He scored seven league goals last season; Aaron Cresswell (eight) was the only defender with more assists. On the other hand, Robertson has played all but 34 minutes of the season as Liverpool leaned heavily on their first-choice left-back.
Liverpool signed a left-back last summer, bringing Kostas Tsimikas to club Olympiakos for £ 11.75million, but he was limited to just six minutes of Premier League action as Robertson started the 38 Liverpool league matches. The Greek full-back has started a few Champions League games but must have wondered what his future holds for him, especially as Napoli and Fenerbahçe were apparently keen to sign him this summer.
However, playing for Jürgen Klopp requires patience. He tends to slowly introduce players to his first team. Even Robertson had time to acclimatise when he joined the Hull City club in 2017. He only started two of Liverpool’s opening 14 league games in his debut season while remaining on the touch, learned Klopp’s style and watched Alberto Moreno play on the left. back. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made seven replacement appearances before starting a league game and Fabinho didn’t start a Premier League game until October after joining the club for £ 40million in the summer of 2018. That can be frustrating for Liverpool players – and fans – but it’s Klopp’s way.
Tsimikas first caught the attention of Liverpool with his impressive performances for Olympiacos in the Champions League and Europa League. His average of 4.3 tackles per game in the Europa League during the 2019-20 season was the competition’s fourth-best player. His tenacity off the ball meant he was perfectly suited to Klopp’s pressing Liverpool style. He also provided a solid offensive outlet for Olympiacos when in possession, able to either pass from the full-back or carry the ball down the line.
After restraining Tsimikas from the first team last season, Klopp’s hand was strained when Robertson injured his ankle in the preseason. Tsimikas have started both Liverpool league games this season, making commendable changes in wins over Norwich and Burnley. Admittedly, he looked a little rusty as the minutes rolled by against Norwich, making a few mistakes. But he looked extremely comfortable in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Burnley, both on and off the ball. He organized Diogo Jota’s opener on Saturday with one of his four key assists; only Trent Alexander-Arnold (seven) made more of all the players on the field. That cross in the box for Jota was reminiscent of Robertson.
Now Klopp has a decision to make. Robertson recovered quickly from his injury and may even be fit to play against Chelsea this weekend. He is one of the best left-backs in Europe; he played a crucial role in Liverpool’s recent success; and his stats are still impressive – in the past three seasons only three players have created clearer chances in the Premier League.
Still, Tsimikas’ start to the season gave Klopp something to think about. Chelsea are one of four other teams in the league with a 100% record this season and their attack is frightening. If chosen, Tsimikas’ Premier League inexperience could come back to haunt Liverpool. Conversely, dropping him immediately after such a promising start to the campaign could be a blow to his confidence. Klopp persisted with Robertson even when he looked tired towards the end of last season. Letting Tsimikas down now could damage his morale again.
It’s tricky for Klopp, but he can take comfort in the fact that Tsimikas spent 12 months at the club, learning the team’s style and developing. This experience will improve the Liverpool squad this season. Robertson was the only Liverpool player to start every league game last season, but the team won’t depend on him as much now as Tsimikas has shown he is a solid save option.
Klopp admitted it this weekend, saying: “Over the last few years we’ve had the problem that it was quite difficult to replace Robbo. I would say that is not really possible because Robbo is a world class player. He is incredible. He is the complete package as a defender and a striker. He is a leader in the team. Kostas took a while to get used to everything we’re asking the left-backs to do. It’s great to have them both. As a manager, it’s hard when you don’t have a left-back. Having two is no problem. Considering Liverpool’s injuries last season, having quality cover in a key area of the pitch is a big boost for Klopp and Liverpool’s title aspirations.
Premier League Team of the Week