How Andy Robertson went from LFC’s running man to a bona fide leader

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There were few constants for Liverpool throughout 2020/21, but the presence, persistence and leadership of Andy Robertson was one of them.

In a season of twists and turns and more downs than ups, Liverpool’s running man…simply kept on running.

Robertson’s campaign was a tribute to the art of resilience, and the Scotsman was pulled into those Jurgen Klopp bearhugs that little bit tighter as a result.

Despite almost grinding himself to dust in the Champions League-winning and Premier League-winning seasons prior, Robertson still managed to bring his all to the table and showed himself to be the very sort of player Liverpool needed to turn to in times of crisis.

As a result, Robertson played the full 38 league games of the campaign, despite summer signing Kostas Tsimikas being brought in to help lighten the load.

When the waves got rough, Liverpool needed both comfort and consistency. They needed Robertson.

Andy Robertson, 2020/21

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 8, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 48 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 2
Unused sub: 2
Goals: 1
Assists: 7

Overall Season Rating: 7.33 (8th)

 

What drop-off?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 1, 2020: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0 to win the group and progress to the Round of 16. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 27-year-old had been accused of missing a beat in the early months of the season, yet his drop-off from the customary lofty levels of assisting could be largely explained by the Reds’ emerging injury crisis.

Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, his partner in crime on the opposite flank, quickly found themselves with a dilemma: take the risk and continue to play their usual full-frontal, high-line play, or tick the boxes of the basics and make sure Liverpool did not concede.

As it turned out, a lesser desired combination of the two transpired.

Robertson did revert back to the ‘simple stuff’ and did not bomb forward with as much regularity, yet Liverpool lost their rhythm and conceded goals regardless.

Morale started to drop as a result, but over the course of the season Robertson would soon realise that Liverpool simply had to do what they do best: press, move and attack.

Of 53 possible games over the season, Robertson turned out 50 times in the red shirt. He provided seven assists in all competitions and hit the back of the net once.

As Liverpool defeated Leicester in November, in the recent aftermath of the season-ending injury to Virgil van Dijk, Robertson put on a masterclass.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp embraces Andy Robertson after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Aggressive off the ball and dogged with it, Robertson hunted down every blue shirt while displaying the kind of exhaustive work rate which simply forces opponents into losing possession by the minute.

A Man of the Match award came his way as a result, and a belief hung in the air that perhaps Liverpool could battle against the impossible this season, despite the odds.

It was this kind of performance from Robertson and Co. that lured many fans into a false sense of security and believe that a sustained title defence – despite losing arguably the world’s best central defender – was attainable.

It is a testament to the Scotsman that he was able to continue running on full power, and Liverpool’s occupation of the top of the table at the turn of the year was in large parts down to his labour.

 

A new leader

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 16, 2020: Liverpool's Andy Robertson celebrates at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

From this season, if nothing else, Robertson has gained a new status within the Anfield dressing room as a leader.

Losing the experience of Van Dijk and Joel Matip from the defence meant Robertson not only became the elder statesman in the back four, but also the most vocal.

It needs no reminding that each week seemed to bring in a new central defensive pairing, and so Robertson had little other option but to constantly talk his new team-mates through matches and ensure they needed to be taking up the positions appropriate for a Klopp back line.

His vocal cords most likely got as much exercise as his legs.

It bodes well for the Reds, however, with one of the designated club captains Gini Wijnaldum moving on this summer.

Leadership and responsibility are highly sought-after commodities in elite-level football clubs, and the test-run which Robertson has completed this season ought to serve him well for the campaign to come.

A European Championship skippering his nation can’t do much harm, either.

 

Best Mane

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 23, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (R) celebrates with team-mates Andy Robertson (C) and Roberto Firmino (L) after scoring the second goal during the final FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0 and finished 3rd in the table. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What Robertson also brought to the table this season, which may have gone somewhat under the radar, was a constant support link for his left-flank comrade Sadio Mane.

The struggles of Liverpool’s Senegal star were well documented, yet the statistics continued to point to Mane getting just as many chances and moments on the ball.

The openings, opportunities and creations were all there, provided in large part by Robertson.

While it became easy to over-focus on Mane’s failings and dissipating confidence, the relationship between him and the reliable Scotsman remained as strong as ever.

The final run-in of the season, which saw the Reds go unbeaten in an impressive 10-game stretch and seal third place, showcased the left side of the field as back to its mercurial best.

Robertson’s hard-pressing and willing running created pockets of space for Mane, while drawing in the resurgent Thiago from the centre of the park to thread balls through.

It was typical, therefore, that the season-ending clash at home to Crystal Palace would see Robertson’s corner ball fall to the feet of Mane for the opener.

 

After the Euros

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 23, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the final FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0 and finished 3rd in the table. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As for next season, Liverpool will be – somehow – hoping for even more of the same.

It speaks volumes about Robertson that it feels within the realms of possibility that he can indeed continue to perform on such a high level, despite three action-packed, consecutive seasons with little rest.

Leading his country at the Euros will do the humble Glaswegian a power of good, though every Red around the world will pray he comes back full of confidence and void of all signs of injury.


Best moment: A powerhouse performance against Leicester

Worst moment: Subpar in the 4-1 loss to Man City

Role next season: Reliable as ever, with added leadership

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