Liverpool player bettering Kevin de Bruyne as Jurgen Klopp faces Andy Robertson dilemma
“So the goal we scored is an incredible situation — what a pass by Joël Matip, dribbling and stuff like this — and then it’s for an inch offside, but good football. Then I think with Kostas Tsimikas with at least two crosses which we could’ve, should’ve finished off.”
As usual, Jürgen Klopp was on the money when discussing Liverpool’s performance after a match. In this case, he was speaking following the 2-0 Champions League victory over Atlético Madrid. The move for Mohamed Salah’s disallowed goal was brilliant football and Tsimikas provided some excellent crosses from which the Reds absolutely should have scored.
The first occurred shortly before half-time. Receiving the ball from the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tsimikas whipped a ball into the Atlético box. It found Diogo Jota six yards from goal, but the Portuguese forward’s header was directed too close to Jan Oblak and he was able to make a save as he so often does.
Matip was only a shade further from goal early in the second half, when Tsimikas’ corner provided the big man with a clear shot. Unfortunately, he lashed the ball wide of the post, but two minutes later Liverpool’s deputy left-back laid on another great opportunity.
On this occasion, Tsimikas dribbled past Ángel Correa towards the by-line and delivered another inch-perfect cross into the penalty area. Once again Jota was the grateful recipient, except that this time the ball came off his shoulder and spun wide.
“He could’ve had a hat-trick,” John Bradley said on LFCTV as the latter chance went begging, and while he was referring to Liverpool’s number 20 and goals, he could easily have meant Tsimikas and assists. Once he realised Jota had missed again, Tsimikas sunk to the turf in front of the Kop with his head in his hands.
Still, he had plenty to be proud about at that point. In the space of 13 minutes of play sandwiching the interval, the 25-year-old had created three clear-cut chances, something no Liverpool player had done in a single game since Roberto Firmino did so at Old Trafford in the FA Cup in January, 39 matches earlier.
More pertinently, with an eye on where Tsimikas stands within the pecking order of Klopp’s options at left-back, Andy Robertson has created three since he laid a golden chance on a plate for Salah at Bramall Lane in February. As he has played 2,215 minutes since that win over Sheffield United, it’s not like he hasn’t had ample time to fashion more than three clear-cut chances for his colleagues.
And while his three in one game was notable, Tsimikas has also provided clear-cut chances for Jota and Origi against Burnley and Norwich (in the League Cup) respectively, with the added bonus that both of those resulted in goals.
It leaves the former Olympiacos man with a rate of one clear-cut chance created for every 109 minutes he has played in 2021/22. While he has a relatively small sample of 546 minutes, a shade over six full games, he has the best hit rate of any Liverpool player who has played at least 100 minutes this season. For context, Trent Alexander-Arnold has set up a big chance every 137 minutes while Robertson has one to show for his 894 minutes of game time.
Liverpool’s number 66 led the way for this metric last season, providing a clear-cut chance every 202 minutes, and he was also the Reds’ top man in 2019/20, when his rate was one every 174 minutes. What Tsimikas has done so far this season is roughly the same as what Man City star Kevin de Bruyne (with one big chance every 105 minutes) achieved in the Premier League last season.
While we must be wary of his small sample, in which any one individual action can swiftly change an average by a wide margin, it’s not unreasonable to ask if Tsimikas should now be in the team more often than Robertson.
Even when not directly creating chances, his deliveries from corners have been causing chaos in opposition penalty boxes. It was set-piece crosses from the Greek which led to Salah scoring against both Norwich and Crystal Palace, and Sadio Mané’s goal against the Eagles originated from the same source.
Per WhoScored, Tsimikas has found a teammate with 3.3 crosses per 90 minutes in the league this season, the best figure any Liverpool player with at least 300 minutes has managed in the last 13 years. This in turn has led him to create 2.7 chances per 90 from crosses, again a club high in the modern analytical era.
Nobody would blame Klopp for sticking with Robertson after everything he has given to Liverpool in the last four years but on current form, if he wants more chances his side “could’ve, should’ve finished off” then he should probably look to Kostas.