Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is set for a team selection headache in the weeks ahead after Andy Robertson returned from Scotland duty injured and Kostas Tsimikas shone against Arsenal.
In the early weeks of the season there was a lot of fan speculation over whether Tsimikas had earned a starting berth at Liverpool after impressive performances against Burnley and Norwich City in Robertson’s absence.
However, the Liverpool boss showed his loyalty and continued to play the reliable Robertson, who has been a massive part of the team’s recent success.
Robertson’s early season struggles
Since joining the Merseyside club in July 2017, the Scotland international has been an ever-present in the Liverpool back line and contributed greatly to the club’s success in winning the Champions League in 2019 followed by a first Premier League title in 2020.
There has been speculation so many games might lead to Robertson losing his place in the starting line-up because of fatigue. Only failing to appear in two league games in the past three seasons, the energetic full-back has put everything he has into every game – his legs may not have much left to give before a rest is needed.
Robertson is also a vital part of his national team after being named Scotland captain by Steve Clarke. While his effort can never be faulted, performances this season have had a lot less impact and, while the attacking burden was shared by Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold previously, the latter has started this season carrying most of that responsibility.
A lack of creative spark in an attacking sense is the main source of frustration among Liverpool’s fanbase and Tsimikas has provided that spark in his fleeting appearances.
Tsimikas and Robertson share many similarities – they both produce clinical deliveries from the left and possess an incredible work rate. It’s clear Klopp likes his full-backs to play in the same mould. Without an attacking threat from these positions, Liverpool tend to struggle.
Will Klopp make Tsimikas a regular in Liverpool’s starting XI?
Following Saturday’s impressive 4-0 win against Arsenal, fans have been wondering whether Tsimikas did enough to keep his place in the starting XI ahead of Robertson. The main reason the ‘Greek Scouser’ was given the nod to start against the Gunners was down to Robertson picking up a knock on international duty last week.
A contrasting view would be Robertson is so ingrained in the team it would be difficult to replace him without players around him having to adjust. For example, Robertson and Sadio Mane have struck up a fantastic partnership on that side.
They have played together for so long and in so many games, everything comes naturally without a second’s thought. Perhaps the Liverpool forward would suffer from having a new partner down the left?
The style of football Klopp likes to play relies on rhythm and being able to do things naturally. Furthermore, Liverpool are a pressing team that play a high defensive line, which requires a lot of practise and training.
This may prove to be the difference between the two as Robertson has proven effective in this system for years, while Tsimikas needs to consistently show he can do the same.
An indication of who may be in the driver’s seat in this debate could be revealed tonight as Liverpool play Porto in the Champions League. Klopp is expected to field a weakened team as the Reds have already qualified for the knockout stages.
If Tsimikas starts, that may suggest Robertson is being saved for the more important league game on Saturday against Southampton. On the other hand, if Robertson plays tonight, he may have lost his place for now.
Whatever Klopp decides about his starting XI, it will be a big decision for the Liverpool boss.
Klopp to make tough decision
As we’ve seen in the past with a tendency to play Roberto Firmino even when his form was poor, Klopp likes to stick with players he knows he can trust. That tips the scale towards giving Robertson a chance to turn his form around in the starting XI.
The main concern for Robertson is if he picks up another injury, he risks losing his place for a longer time and finding it hard to get back into Klopp’s Liverpool side, especially if Tsimikas delivers.
With two games this week, will Klopp decide to stick or twist?