About a decade on from John Arne Riise and Liverpool have yet to find a quality first-choice left back. It looked as if Alberto Moreno was maturing into the role, but injury has unfortunately side lined him for the past month leaving Andrew Robertson to deputize the role. However, has the former Hull City man made a good enough impression to hold down his spot for when Moreno soon returns?
Liverpool’s new marquee signing Virgil Van Dijk stole all the headlines last Friday night with a late winner on his debut in the FA Cup to knockout eternal rivals Everton, but the story flying under the radar that should be making the rounds this week is left-back Andrew Robertson’s rock-solid performance against the Toffees.
The Scotsman had the left side of the pitch locked up as he impressively notched up more touches (84) and tackles (5) than anyone else on the pitch, per WhoScored. Robertson was also able to make short work of dynamic winger Yannick Bolasie who traditionally has a field day tormenting Liverpool’s defense. Early on in the game, Everton attempted to find openings on the right through the Congolese wide-man, but instead found themselves shut down time and time again by the Reds #26.
However, anyone who has watched Liverpool as of late will know that such a solid, and arguably, man-of-the-match performance from the Scottish international is not out of the norm as he has been one of the Reds most consistent and reliable players since he has been inserted into the starting lineup.
The former Hull City man had a slow start to his Liverpool career, only making 4 uninspiring appearances for his new side before first-choice left back Alberto Moreno picked up an injury against Spartak Moscow in early December. Since then, the 23-year-old has seized his chance with aplomb and is making a strong case to hold the left back spot as his own upon Moreno’s eventual return; a case that many of the Anfield faithful are starting to get behind.
Why Moreno should not immediately return to the starting line-up
By far, the biggest and most frequent criticism of Alberto Moreno is his flat-out ability to defend. A confusing and quite concerning issue if the weakest aspect to a defender’s game is to do, at its essence, the one thing a defender is required to do — defend. But that is the hair-pulling, roller-coaster-of-a-ride enigma that Alberto Moreno is.
The Spanish full-back is often seen using his blistering pace to bomb down the wing and wreak havoc on the left-hand side, overlapping with quick and neat combinations with the former ‘Fab Four’ of Coutinho, Mané, Firmino, and Salah. However, he is also often seen wreaking havoc in his own half of the pitch with his all-over-the-place defending.
While Moreno does possess the passion and hunger in the tackle that people want to see, his positioning and decision making repeatedly let himself and the team down in sometimes catastrophic ways. To be fair, the way Liverpool’s system is set up to defend does not exactly set up the backline for success, but Moreno does not do himself any favors. Too often the Spaniard can be seen either too tucked in too narrow or pushed up way too high up the pitch almost alongside the forwards at times. Sometimes his pace is able to cover over the cracks as he is able to track back quick enough to recover from his positional mistakes, but these are situations that should not even have to happen; something Andy Robertson is beginning to make Liverpool fans realize.
Why Robertson should retain his spot in the starting line-up
Game after game Robertson has continued to demonstrate his abilities a capable defender as is he is rarely found frantically tracking back in a panic trying to recover from his own mistakes. More than just a spatially intelligent defender, the Scottish international showed his ability to be hard and accurate in the tackle last Friday against a tricky opponent in Yannick Bolasie.
Although Moreno’s abilities going forward cannot be questioned, Robertson’s abilities are not too far off. Signed as a marauding wing-back and not a defensive stalwart from Hull City in the summer for £8 million, Liverpool knew what they were getting in a talented quick two-way player with a penchant for providing quality balls into the box. In fact in the league this season, the Scotsman has created just one less chance (11) than the Spaniard (12) in two fewer appearances, per Squawka.
In fairness to Moreno, he was easily having his best season in a Liverpool shirt and playing as one of the top performers before his injury. While bad performances have not nearly been as frequent as previous seasons, they have been absolute howlers when they have occurred (i.e. the 3-3 UCL Sevilla collapse, the 4-1 Tottenham game).
If Liverpool want to make the final push under Klopp to reach the heights they have dreamt of for so long, the club must act ruthlessly and not settle for good most of the time. Robertson has been nothing but consistently solid since his insertion to the starting lineup, showing absolutley no signs for worry. The Scotsman’s disciplined defensive abilities paired with his offensive talents have proven thus far to fit almost hand in glove into Jurgen Klopp’s complex system. If Robertson continues to ride the current upward trajectory he is on, then there should be no reason to settle for inconsistency and remove him from the side.