Andy Robertson’s rise from released & relegated to creative outlet & crucial tactical cog

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Andy Robertson is one of the most indispensable parts of Liverpool’s title-winning team, which is maybe the biggest compliment he could be paid in a side filled with world-class talents.

It’s not a secret where Robbo came from. Those tweets at Queens Park, the stories of leaving Celtic, the gradual rise from Dundee United to Hull to Anfield…it’s a brilliant story and an incredible rise.

Similarly, it’s not a secret that Liverpool’s full-backs are a critical component of Jurgen Klopp‘s team.

They are the outlet, the playmaker, the rampager, the counter-attacker, the tracker-backer, the recovery runner, the set-piece deliverer…all as and when needed, either player, either side.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is probably seen as the ‘better’ player, the more ‘valuable’ player, the more dangerous of the two.

But years of Klopp-ball and now winning trophies has surely proven the point beyond any doubt: successful football is about balance, and both Liverpool’s full-backs give that.

Robertson is every bit as vital as his partner in crime and that’s shown as much in his performances as it is in his absences.

2019/20 was a wonderful campaign for Liverpool overall, who played well often and won games even when they didn’t.

Robbo’s own season was mirrored pretty perfectly in that way.

Andy Robertson, 2019/20

DOHA, QATAR - Saturday, December 21, 2019: Liverpool's Andy Robertson kisss the trophy after the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 Final match between CR Flamengo and Liverpool FC at the Khalifa Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra time. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 46 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 3
Unused sub: 0
Goals: 3
Assists: 12

Overall season rating: 9

 

Delivery and drive

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's Andy Robertson takes a corner-kick during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Achieving 12 assists in a league season is old news, now. Trent has seen to that.

Yet prior to last season, no defender had ever achieved it; in the space of 14 months now, both Liverpool full-backs have done it.

The consistency of Robertson setting up great chances for his team-mates is as relentless as the Scot’s recovery runs.

He has 23 Premier League assists in two seasons and only one player betters that—Trent, with 25.

It is phenomenal, remarkable, unstoppable consistency from the two sides of the defence, and if teams underappreciate just how much the direct and determined Robertson contributes to the cause against the slightly more refined and homegrown Scouser, that’s to their detriment.

DOHA, QATAR - Wednesday, December 18, 2019: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Andy Robertson celebrate after the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 Semi-Final match between CF Monterrey and Liverpool FC at the Khalifa Stadium. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

Aside from Robertson’s end product, the outlet side of his play is just as vital.

Earlier there was a reference to him being indispensable; his importance to the team is highlighted most when he’s not there.

There’s no other player who can be the always-free out-ball that Robbo is—he’s quicker, more left-footed and more aggressive with his running than any potential replacement in the squad.

Even Andy Robbo on a bad day—and there were a few—is still a big positive for the Reds, just from the positions he takes up and the level of running forward in his game.

He sets opponents on the back foot, keeps the Liverpool shape intact and lets Sadio Mane do his thing—which is a very, very, very good thing indeed.

Undroppable, irreplaceable, unstoppable Andy Robbo.

 

Personality and performances

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 26, 2019: Liverpool's Andy Robertson celebrates after his side's fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 4-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s not enough in this Liverpool team to just be good. If it was, Naby Keita would be the Ballon d’Or winner and two or three of the kids would already be starters.

Klopp demands more, and has created more within the group.

Having the character to represent not just the shirt on the pitch, but the fans in the stands (or at home, now) and the city and country as a whole is also a big part of it.

Scotland captain, an absolute success story and very much still true to his roots, Robbo represents his nation with conviction and class.

He did a lot during lockdown which had nothing to do with football whatsoever, showing he still has a side to him which is completely devoted to where he came from.

As for Liverpool as a club and a place, the same is true.

He’s funny, admirable, irritating to play against, cheeky and very much outgoing—that’s apparent in everything from his self-deprecating social media posts to his appearances on LFCTV.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 22, 2019: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea's FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He represents the club very well, with humour, with humility and with a big personality in the dressing room.

Robbo is loud when we see him off the pitch, loud when we see him on it—but has the performances to back it up.

As noted above, even on the days when he doesn’t play well, although he can be capable of having an absolute shocker on the ball, he still puts in everything to give the team a chance.

Resilience and availability are both checked off by the No. 26—49 appearances this season!—and his big aims for the next have to be to maintain those fitness levels and to improve his consistency.

Even if there are only eight or 10 games a year when he’s not near his best, those are the areas to improve upon.

To keep winning, to stay at the top, even the best players have to get better.

 

Next season and Robertson’s future role

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 2, 2019: Liverpool's Andy Robertson celebrates scoring the first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What else? He’ll be the starting left-back, and the position is his for as long as he wants it.

Determination, consistency and a willingness to improve are all hallmarks of a Klopp team and they are all traits Robertson has in abundance.

Challengers will come, eventually. And maybe we won’t have to run him into the ground as a result.

Liverpool are believed to have drawn up a four-man shortlist as they pursue a new left-back in the transfer window, which includes Norwich’s Jamal Lewis—a player whose rise would mirror that of the Scot.

But it’s tough to see anything other than Andy Robbo as Liverpool’s left-back for a couple of years to come yet, never mind just in 2020/21.


Best moment: Goal against Aston Villa to get us back into a crucial game, epitomising the Reds’ resolve, spirit and ability to win late on.

Worst moment: Any of you who have played a game of 5-a-side or similar, after two or three years without kicking a ball, will pretty much know how Robbo looked and maybe felt against Man City after the title was won.

Role next season: First-choice left-back. Utterly unstoppable dynamo. Madhead down the flank and on the video and social platforms.

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