🔴EOTK Insider Opinion: Klopp must use the depth at his disposal and give one Red a much-needed break 🤕
It's time to exercise some flexibility in selection... for the good of the team and the individual in question
In the middle of our defensive injury crisis last term, one might fairly imagine the response to suggesting Andy Robertson should be handed a break in favour of starting Kostas Tsimikas would have attracted a flurry of raised eyebrows.
And this is in no small part due to the fact that the Greek international was one of several in a long line of injury casualties Jurgen Klopp had to put up with throughout the cursed 2020/21 campaign.
With the low-hanging stratus of injury concerns darkening Liverpool’s doorstep once more - this time further afield in the middle of the park - the Reds must exercise flexibility where they can.
With the near-constant chopping and changing of the centre-back partnership last term (the Merseysiders went through no less than 18 combinations), Klopp could ill afford to experiment with his fullback options lest he wished to further destablise the defence.
As such, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were sucked dry for all the minutes they could muster across the course of a difficult campaign.
Between them, the pair managed to feature in all but four of Liverpool’s domestic top-flight and European fixtures (a considerable tally of 92 games between them), with the former not missing a single one of the ties in question.
The Scottish skipper’s durability and availability, comparable to that of former Reds midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, is hardly a new feature, with the left-back having only missed less than 6% of our total league fixtures since the 2018/19 season.
The workload has undeniably taken its toll on our No.26, however, with Robertson facing criticism for a perceived drop in form in comparison to his competition, Tsimikas.
Indeed, of the two, the former Olympiakos man has arguably been far superior to first-choice left-back this term, which raises questions as to why Jurgen Klopp hasn’t taken an opportunity to grant rest to the beleaguered defender.
Make no mistake, Andrew Robertson is, on his day, the better option of the two - though that’s not in any way intended to slight the Greek fullback, who is certainly staking a claim for the title of the best backup left-back in the world.
Even to focus on the 25-year-old as a backup option doesn’t do his ability justice. In fact, the best compliment that can be paid to Tsimikas is that Liverpool’s style of play doesn’t really suffer when he enters the fray.
But that’s beside the point.
Though we can’t exactly compete man for man in terms of overall squad depth with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, this Liverpool squad is more flexible than some give it credit for.
Injuries in the middle of the park aside, we have a perfectly stable backline, in sharp contrast to the prior season, meaning that Klopp doesn’t face the same dilemma of having to run both Trent and Robertson ragged.
One only needs to look as far as Manchester City to observe how Pep Guardiola utilises the options at his disposal with the Oleksandr Zinchenko, Benjamin Mendy and João Cancelo all rotated at the left-back spot throughout the prior term.
Our wealth of options in the same position may be a comparatively smaller treasure hoard, however, there’s no questioning the fact that we’ve one perfectly sound alternative to our Scottish international in Kostas Tsimikas.
Even assuming if Jurgen Klopp hands the Greek starts in our remaining Champions League fixtures against AC Milan and FC Porto, and in the EFL Cup against Leicester City, Liverpool still have nine fixtures to compete in from the 20th November to the 28th December.
Nine games, or 870 minutes if you will, in 39 days - in more precise terms: a game roughly every four days.
Assuming that Klopp wants his best left-back available for the bulk of our upcoming festive fixtures, now is an ideal time to hand Robertson a moment to recharge his batteries for the rest of the season.
Our upcoming home games against Porto and Southampton, following our hosting of Mikel Arteta’s in-form Arsenal outfit, certainly represent ideal opportunities for the Scot to take a breather in the interests of encouraging the return of his best form.
Whilst there’s a serious argument to be made in favour of starting Tsimikas anyway on current form, the reality of the situation is that we’re unlikely to get the most out of one of our generally reliable performers unless we give his legs a much-needed break.
Robertson’s injury scare at the weekend whilst on international duty should be all the warning Klopp needs in that regard, no matter whether further analysis suggests the former Hull City man would capable of making the first-XI for Arsenal’s visit to L4.
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