Liverpool picked up a timely and much-needed win over Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday night and the match should give Jurgen Klopp plenty of food for thought.
Tuesday night was all about the result for Liverpool, so the fact that it ended with a 2-1 win over Ajax meant it was a job well done for Jurgen Klopp and his side.
It wasn’t pretty, and it required a lot of hard work and perseverance, but Joel Matip’s late header still brought jubilation to Anfield. The big centre-back was the hero of the match, providing a much-needed joyous moment following Liverpool ’s 4-1 thrashing by Napoli on the opening night of their Champions League campaign last week.
Thiago Alcantara was another who caught the eye, with his mixture of Hollywood passes and crunching bite in midfield very welcome upon his first start since limping out of the draw at Fulham on the opening day of the season.
But there was another, more under-the-radar performer who deserves praise – and who can offer Klopp and his squad with a valuable lesson. Kostas Tsimikas was superb at left-back for Liverpool, more than ably deputising for the injured Andy Robertson.
Tsimikas created five chances for Liverpool during the game and provided the all-important assist for Matip’s winner with his whipped corner. Unsurprisingly, it was the most the Greece international had created in a single match since joining the club in a £11.75million transfer from Olympiacos in August 2020.
Perhaps surprisingly, the contribution means Tsimikas now has three assists in six appearances this season – an average of one every 74 minutes. Altogether he has contributed nine in 39 appearances, or one every 240 minutes on average. That is the best rate of all the players to have played at least 600 minutes during Klopp’s time in charge.
The 26-year-old has been an understated presence for Liverpool, due mainly to Robertson’s consistency and impact. Tsimikas has been forced to bide his time and wait for his opportunities, but there can be no doubts that he has taken them.
Klopp said before the Ajax game that Robertson “is out at least until after the international break” due to his knee problem. With this weekend’s fixture against Chelsea postponed due to the lack of available police ahead of the Queen’s funeral, that means he could be back in time for the Reds’ next fixture, against Brighton on October 1.
Tsimikas’ performances are such that Robertson is far from guaranteed to get his place back in the side. And that is the kind of headache a manager like Klopp should welcome – especially given it is the exact opposite to the problems in midfield, where he has a dearth of options.
Thiago’s impact against Ajax was extremely timely. In the previous match against Napoli, Liverpool were completely ineffectual in the middle of the park, with Fabinho unusually off colour, James Milner showing his age and Harvey Elliott a mere spectator.
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones all currently unavailable, Klopp has been forced to field the same underperforming players in central midfield. The arrival of Arthur Melo, on loan from Juventus, has yet to bear fruit, but with time now to recover over the now-extended international break, Liverpool’s midfielders need to take a leaf out of Tsimikas’ book.
If Liverpool can get their key players fit again and increase competition for places then it will go a long way towards ensuring their win over Ajax becomes the launch pad for a renewed period of good form.