Opinion: Andy Robertson’s poor form is becoming a big problem for Liverpool as they prepare for Atletico Madrid test
For a long time, Andy Robertson was the embodiment of everything Liverpool have done well during the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) era. Undervalued at Hull City, the Scot was identified through shrewd scouting and signed through good recruitment for just £8m in the same summer Kyle Walker set a new transfer record for a full back at £53m.
Under Jurgen Klopp, Robertson went on to become one of the best players in his position and was a key figure as Liverpool won the Champions League and Premier League titles in back-to-back seasons. Now, though, the 27-year-old’s form has become the cause of concern on Merseyside.
After a 2020/21 season that saw Liverpool relieved to merely finish in the top four, Klopp’s side look revitalised. Mohamed Salah is reaching new heights while the return of Virgil van Dijk has generally strengthened the Reds’ defensive line even if his centre back partnership with summer signing Ibrahima Konate could use some work.
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However, Robertson has struggled since missing the first few weeks of the campaign through injury. His attacking output is down having contributed just one assist in seven Premier League outings (he is averaging just one cross per match this season compared to 1.6 last season) with the Scot’s positional discipline also coming under scrutiny.
It was Robertson’s failure to keep the defensive line held by van Dijk that led to Leandro Trossard being onside for Brighton’s equaliser on Saturday. Klopp has more than once acknowledged his team’s frailties at the back this season and Robertson has frequently been the source of them. He isn’t the same player he has been for the last three seasons.
Meanwhile, Kostas Tsimikas has made the most of every opportunity he has been given as Robertson’s deputy. If Klopp’s first-choice left back needs a rest, as his recent performances suggest, Tsimikas could easily be rotated into the team, yet the Greek is still only a depth option.
Only Trent Alexander-Arnold (2.5) has made more crosses per match this season than Tsimikas (2.2) while the Greek has registered as many Premier League assists as Robertson despite starting just three times. Tsimikas is also averaging 1.8 key passes per match compared to Robertson’s average of just 1.4. He is also averaging 2.2 tackles per match – Robertson is averaging just 1.1.
“We have two left-backs, really good left-backs, and it was always the idea to have that because it’s a very special position and [James Milner] had to play it more often than he wanted. It is obviously much better when you have really good options,” Klopp explained recently.
Kostas Tsimikas for Liverpool in the Premier League.
Image credit: Eurosport
“Robbo played an incredible season the year before, he was maybe the best player for Scotland at the Euros and we should all not forget that. I don’t forget it. It does not mean that from now on he can play like he wants, but he never did. He’s an animal, he works incredibly hard, so having these two options is great and both will have their games for sure this year if there are no injuries, which I don’t hope for.”
At his best, Robertson offers much more than Tsimikas ever could. The Scotland international is irrepressible in the energy and drive he provides down the left wing. He has absorbed Klopp’s teachings perhaps better than any other player at Anfield and has earned himself a reputation as one of Liverpool’s best ever defenders.
Right now, though, Robertson’s form is a problem and Klopp must acknowledge this just as he has acknowledged his team’s defensive issues as a whole. Just as Robertson facilitated others at the peak of his powers, his vulnerability is currently having a detrimental knock-on effect at Anfield.
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