Liverpool have two new full-backs compared to this time last year. The duo are exactly what the Reds need to continue their remarkable Premier League form.
Neco Williams and Kostas Tsimikas aren’t the most inspiring additions ever. In fact, if you’d told fans a year ago that these two would be the most talked-about new players, there would be some worries. How could Liverpool follow a summer without signings by adding two backup fullbacks?
And yet, they’re absolutely vital additions to the squad that Liverpool lacked this time last year. Because, in truth, the Reds got lucky last year.
Not in the way they played, of course, nor with their results. Liverpool were undoubtedly the best team in the country and fully deserved all of their success.
But they were still fortunate that certain players didn’t suffer injuries. Primarily, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The duo are the best full-back pairing in the world. There’s little doubt about that. But Liverpool went into last season without any recognised backup for either.
The best they could do was moving Joe Gomez over to right-back and kindly asking James Milner to play left-back. Neither player would consider those positions as natural to them.
And Liverpool miss quite a lot when they can’t use their first-choice full-backs. Alexander-Arnold and Robertson finished second and third respectively for assists in the Premier League last season. They’re the most creative players in the team and Liverpool build their play around them.
But things could have fallen apart if either suffered a long-term injury – or simply a drop in form from exhaustion. Liverpool needed both to play every important game, after all.
This would have been a much bigger problem heading into the 2020/21 campaign. Without backup, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold were looking at a third consecutive season without true cover. It seems almost inevitable that one of them would tire or pick up a troubling injury.
But with Tsimikas and Williams, Jurgen Klopp can afford to rest his star duo more often. He can play things more carefully with them and assure a consistent season.
The full-back duo essentially eliminates one of the biggest risks Liverpool were taking with their squad – possible the biggest. As Liverpool look to carry over their incredible league form from last season, that could prove absolutely vital.