Another international break, another injury setback for Liverpool.
These gaps between domestic action are painful at the best of times – are there really three of these every autumn?? – and while the facts may suggest otherwise, it does feel as though the Reds are incapable of reconvening with their whole squad still intact.
Liverpool’s latest injury casualty on international duty is Andy Robertson, who suffered a shoulder problem for Scotland that threatens to rule him out for an extended period of time.
The 29-year-old is a robust figure who has so often been dependable in the fitness department, so not having him around for a chunk of action acts as a massive blow.
Few players in the Jurgen Klopp era have been more consistent in all facets of being a professional, from performing well to simply being available week in, week out.
While there have been a few dissenting voices over whether Robertson has drifted past his peak, and if he is the solution in a tweaked left-back role to accommodate the roaming Trent Alexander-Arnold, he is only truly appreciated when he isn’t playing.
Not having him around not only sees Liverpool lose a huge amount of experience and quality, but also some fire in their belly and a priceless winning mentality.
What the Scot’s injury does do is provide Kostas Tsimikas with a huge opportunity to prove his worth in the coming weeks, assuming Klopp opts for him as a like-for-like replacement for Robertson.
Tsimikas has had a curious Liverpool career to date, with the Greek clearly a popular figure in the dressing room and an extroverted personality, not to mention being liked by many fans for these reasons.
He is affectionally known as the 'Greek Scouser' for a reason and it is easy to warm to him when training ground clips or promotional videos emerge.
There was also the FA Cup-clinching penalty in 2022 that will forever etch his name into Reds folklore, and a tally of 12 assists in 40 starts is an impressive ratio for someone who doesn’t always receive praise for his end product.
Despite this, Tsimikas has also flattered to deceive too often in a Liverpool shirt, providing less defensive nous than Robertson and proving to be a significant step down in ability from his teammate.
Granted, there is no great shame in that, considering Robertson is possibly the Reds’ greatest-ever left-back, but rather than kick on the longer he has been at Anfield, he has arguably started to go backwards, not proving to be a strong enough deputy in his position.
While an average of 3.5 clearances and 2.5 tackles and interceptions apiece in the Europa League this season suggest he has done well, his overall performances against LASK and Union SG weren't wholly convincing, and he didn't put any pressure on Robertson for his place in the Premier League.
When given the chance to shine, there has often not been enough defensive focus or attacking consistency on show, and only four minutes of league action have come his way this season to date, which speaks volumes.
For this reason, the idea of Tsimikas coming into the team has been met with an element of dread, at a time when Liverpool are already creaking a little in the defensive department, being cut open too easily in 2023/24, not helped by a lack of an out-and-out 'number six'.
📊 Of the 60 players to have attempted 15 or more dribbles, Kostas Tsimikas has the best dribble success rate of 90% in Euro 2024 qualifying. [who scored]
Our Greek Scouser ready for the Merseyside derby 🇬🇷 pic.twitter.com/MLPiyeJ1bk
It looks almost nailed on that he will start Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated Merseyside derby clash with Everton at Anfield, in what represents a must-win game for Klopp’s men.
Having picked just one point from their last two games against Tottenham and Brighton, another below-par result here would really sting, and they are facing a Blues side who could be hard to break down in true Sean Dyche fashion.
If Liverpool are to harbour genuine Premier League title aspirations this season, they cannot afford to be slipping up in games of this ilk, even if it’s a derby.
Dyche could be looking at Liverpool's left-back area and seeing it as a place to target, so there is every chance that Tsimikas will be under the microscope from the off at Anfield.
Perhaps an unfair accusation in the eyes of some, but he can look like a player who lacks focus and sturdiness, especially when fiery fixtures arrive, but that cannot afford to be the case this weekend, with a big performance required from him.
Now 27, Tsimikas should be viewed as an experienced head who can come in, do a solid job and make the absence of Robertson feel relatively unproblematic.
There is an unwanted unpredictability about him that means you don't quite know what you're going to get, however, and that is far from ideal.
Giorgos Giakoumakis! 😱🇬🇷
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) October 13, 2023
It is easy to envisage Tsimikas producing a cult hero-like performance against Everton, biting into tackles, geeing up the fans and bringing energy down the left flank, but equally, it wouldn't be a shock to see him cost Liverpool and throw in a stinker of a performance.
The Greece international has still contributed plenty of good for the Reds, so it would be unfair to paint him as a Paul Konchesky-esque liability, but Klopp's side have reached such huge heights these days that elite levels are required from key men and squad players alike.
If Tsimikas has been irked about a lack of football because of the brilliance of Robertson, now would be the perfect time for him to show his manager that he can be trusted for weeks on end.
There is a lingering concern that Robertson's stock will only rise over the next month or so, though.