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Football News: Andrew Robertson - An Initial Assessment

Andrew Robertson - An Initial Assessment
Image from: liverpoolecho.co.uk

Liverpool's primary target last summer couldn't have been more obvious. Alberto Moreno had almost single handedly thrown a Europa League final against Sevilla just a year previously, and the 12 months in between that error-strewn performance and the 2017 summer transfer window had been a real tough watch.

Liverpool supporters had to endure a full season of James Milner running about a lot, getting caught out of position, killing most attacks dead by cutting back onto his right foot, and losing his man in nearly every defensive situation. Credit where it is due, Milner gave it his all and had a few good games, but he just isn't a left back.

It is fairly obvious that Andrew Robertson wasn't Jurgen Klopp's first choice, and certainly wasn't wanted by most fans. Liverpool made varying levels of effort to sign Benjamin Mendy, Kieran Tierney, Ryan Sessegnon and Ricardo Pereira. All efforts failed, whether it was money issues, a tapping up scandal, or the player simply not wanting to join Liverpool. Who knows?

In the end, Robertson was the man Klopp got. It is unclear whether he was genuinely the 5th choice option, but he certainly wasn't the primary target (you don't need a first class honours degree from the San Francisco Gentleman Adventurers University of Rodeo Clown Training, to know that).

It is hard to judge Robertson because he hasn't played that much, and he has really struggled to string together a run of appearances until recently. Unfortunately for him, Moreno decided his Liverpool journey wasn't over and resumed his career as a footballer. Just in time as well, because he was looking like the second coming of Jose Enrique!

Defensive play:

Robertson has started okay defensively to be fair to him. He hasn't really been put under much pressure in any of the games he's played in though (Palace, Everton and West Brom to name a few) so whilst he hasn't been at fault for anything of note, he just hasn't been fully tested to be honest.

On the rare occasion he has had to defend he has done relatively well (but raising the bar from Milner and Moreno wasn't exactly difficult). I did see glimpses of him struggling in the last half an hour in the Merseyside Derby though. Sam Allardyce had waved his team forward in search of an equaliser and Robertson didn't know what to do when Jonjoe Kenny started making overlapping runs. He looked like a rabbit in headlights on a couple of occasions, but in the end he did just enough as the goal Liverpool conceded was nothing to do with him.

I don't think Robertson is bad at defending though. In his recent game against Bournemouth, a mistake in midfield set Jordan Ibe free down the right wing and the pace and desire Robertson displayed to not only catch Ibe, but also to get goal side and block the shot, was very impressive. He certainly doesn't intentionally shirk his defensive duties. Milner would never have caught Ibe, and Moreno would've probably made a tackle from the wrong side and conceded a penalty! It was excellent defending to recover another players mistake.

Attacking play:

This for me personally, has been a massive disappointment. At Hull City, Robertson used to put in some great crosses that the striker just weren't getting on the end of (or even putting away when they did). His crossing was inconsistent still, but at least he put in a good one every so often. It was easy to assume that the movement just wasn't good enough in the centre.

So far in Robertson's Liverpool career, his crossing has been nothing short of atrocious though. They've been over hit, too close to the goal keeper, behind the forwards, smashed into the first man, or just gone out behind for a goal kick. Worst of all, he doesn't seem to have a look before crossing it. He just targets an area of the box to play it into and does it without checking that there is anyone in red stood there. It is so frustrating. In his defence, he would perhaps build up an understanding with the forwards if he played regularly and learn what part of the box they generally attack. He has to have a quick look up though so he can consistently pick out a Liverpool man.

What i have been impressed by is his willingness to go past people. He's looked very in control of the ball at speed, and he really gets at his opposite full back. His willingness to get up for every attack, but still track back when required has arguably been the reason he's not been put under much pressure defensively. Opposition players perhaps don't want to leave space for him to exploit because he is pinning them back.

This desire to break forward at pace actually led to the opening goal against Bournemouth. Not only did he play a great one-two with Phillipe Coutinho, but rather than admiring his own pass, he made a lung bursting sprint to get back alongside Coutinho. Once there, he made a very clever change of direction to pull wide and distract Simon Francis for a split second. A split second was all that was needed for Coutinho to cut inside and score. It will go down as an assist, and despite Coutinho's brilliance, Robertson created that goal with a neat touch and some selfless running. It was the first real moment in his Liverpool career so far in which Robertson directly impacted a goal being scored. Hopefully it will give him confidence to influence the game a bit more offensively.

Whilst it isn't a major part of a wing backs game, Robertson also needs to work on his shooting. He tends to blaze all his chances over the bar, or drag them across goal. In a team like Liverpool, he will get a few chances to shoot over the course of a season and it would be nice to see him at least work the keeper.

Attitude:

I've not been massively impressed, but I've not been disappointed either. Initially there were rumours he wasn't fit enough to play the way Klopp wanted him to, which suggests he didn't train hard enough. He did miss most of Liverpool's pre-season, but surely he must've still been preparing for his potential season with Hull?

On top of that, he has reportedly asked for a loan this coming January. For me, that is a lazy decision if it's true. He should be prepared to fight everyday in training to get into the team. If it doesn't work out at Liverpool for him, Robertson won't get a move to a bigger club in the remainder of his career. So you'd have to question his ambition if this rumour is true (or at the very least, his confidence in his own abilities).

Credit where it is due though, Robertson's attitude on the pitch is immaculate. His work rate up and down the left flank is his biggest asset. That is primarily down to his willingness to impress and help out his team when he does get a chance. He just needs to believe in his own abilities. The top players think they are the best, even when they're not. However they also never stop trying to be better. Robertson can't rest on his laurels because he got a high profile move. This is where the work really begins in his fledgling career.

Overview:

Robertson has shown in glimpses that he can defend and that he can do damage going forward, but it just hasn't been good enough so far. He needs to fight to stay in the starting XI once Moreno is back fit. With Moreno currently out injured, this is Robertson's best chance to nail down a starting place. Up until the Bournemouth game, I hadn't seen the desire to suggest he had acknowledged that. If he makes his Bournemouth performance a regular standard, he doesn't deserve to be dropped. He will face tougher tests in the next month though.

I still worry for Robertson's long term Liverpool future, but we are at least starting to see what he can do now. Hopefully he kicks on from here, as Liverpool have never won the league without a Scottish player in the squad!

Written by Adam Jones December 18 2017 10:05:38