What impact can Tsimikas have for Liverpool this season?
Joining Liverpool FC from Olympiacos in 2020, Konstantinos Tsimikas is a Greek leftback who has had limited opportunities due to Andy Robertson’s firm grip on the starting spot. When given the chance, Tsimikas has demonstrated that he is more than capable of performing at a high standard in the left back role. The upcoming season is a pivotal one for Tsimikas, and if he keeps up his impressive run of performances, he will give manager Jurgen Klopp a headache when deciding who will be the name on the team sheet for the left back role.
After having a difficult first season that was dominated by a COVID diagnosis and injuries, Tsimikas had much more of an opportunity to showcase his talents in the 21/22 season. An injury to Andy Robertson during Liverpool’s preseason game against Athletic Bilbao meant that Klopp opted for Tsimikas for the team’s Premier League season opener against Norwich City. Although on occasion Tsimikas looked vulnerable in the opening minutes, the Greek left back increased in confidence as the game went on, looking stronger and stopping Norwich’s attempts in attack. In fact, Tsimikas notched up 6 clearances, ranking first out of any Liverpool player, and he successfully completed 3 tackles. What also became clear during this game was that Tsimikas wasn’t afraid to get forward, completing 3 dribbles down the left flank, in the same vein that Robertson has done consistently for Liverpool.
With Robertson still injured, Tsimikas was given the opportunity to start against Burnley for Liverpool’s second Premier League game. He took full advantage of the chance he had been given and was one of the best players on the pitch. The Greek international won 7/12 of his duels, and ⅔ of his aerial duels. Tsimikas also ventured up the field often, delivering 9 crosses into the box. His best moment in the game came in the 17th minute when he struck a perfectly precise cross into the box that star forward Diogo Jota was able to head in with ease, opening the scoring for Liverpool.
The next game against Chelsea saw a return to action for starter Robertson, and Klopp decided to instantly put his name back onto the team sheet. It is understandable why the manager would want as many of his starters playing for a game against the then incumbent European champions, but this was still harsh on the Tsimikas who had illuminated his offensive and defensive talents over the past two games.
In the 21/22 season, Robertson started 44 matches in all competitions, compared to Tsimikas who started only 19 games in comparison, with most of these starts being in cup games or champion league group games. Robertson was only dropped by Klopp in less important games or when the Scottish fullback did not have full match fitness.
However, Tsimikas on average was more successful offensively throughout the season compared to Robertson. According to fbref, Tsimikas achieved an average of 9.88 progressive ball carries per 90, which is higher than Robertson’s average last season, with 7.04 progressive ball carries per 90. He also achieved a higher assist xG compared to Robertson, with Tsimikas achieved 0.26xG per 90 compared to Robertson’s 0.18xG per 90. In terms of crosses, a method of attacking that has become so vital for fullbacks in Klopp’s system, it was again Tsimikas who on average consistently delivered more crosses compared to Robertson. The Greek dispatched 5.56 crosses per 90, which is much higher than Robertson with an average of 3.16 per 90. It is important to remember that due to the two left backs starting different numbers of games their sample sizes are not the same, but it would be interesting to see if Tsimikas’ numbers stayed as impressive with a larger run of games under his belt.
The Greek international also achieved impressive defensive statistics throughout the season. On average, Tsimikas achieved 1.99 tackles per 90, which is much higher than Robertson’s 1.23 per 90. He also illustrated in his limited minutes that he could successfully pressure an opponent out of possession, an attribute that is vital in Klopp’s relentless gegenpress system. Tsimikas notched up 13.12 pressures per 90 compared to Robertson’s 10.24, and his pressuring efforts were on average more successful, generating a percentage of 34.8% efficient pressures in contrast to Robertson’s 33.3% per 90.
It is with passing however that makes Tsimikas’ performances fall short compared to Andy Robertson. Across the season, Tsimikas achieved an average pass completion of 73.3%, but it was Robertson who had more success in finding his teammates with his passing, with an average pass completion of 80.8%. The Scottish fullback also consistently completed more passes into the final third, with 4.95 of his passes per 90 successfully reaching a teammate in the final third. Tsimikas meanwhile was only able to find a pass into the final third 2.51 times per 90.
Overall, when he got the chance to play, Kostas Tsimikas had an impressive season for Liverpool Football Club, producing 6 assists in a total of 26 appearances in all competitions. His defining moment of the season came in the penalty shootout against Chelsea in the FA Cup final, in which he confidently scored the penalty to secure Liverpool’s victory in the competition for the first time since 2006.
“I am the Scouser who is Greek!” Tsimikas declared in his post-match interview, cementing his name in Liverpool folklore and firmly establishing his nickname as the ‘Scouser Greek.’ This penalty may have added his name into the trophy books, but Tsimikas will want to keep challenging Robertson for the left back starting role. Although they differ in their style of play, Liverpool have at their disposal two extremely talented fullbacks who are vital for their offensive talents and can defend with confidence. It is likely that Robertson will continue to be the starter in the opening games of the season, but the Scouser Greek certainly deserves chances to start and display the talent he has in abundance.