Liverpool have had their fair share of dross players over the years: Antonio Nunez, Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic roll straight off the tongue, for example. Indeed, the last few years have produced some teams with a dearth of star quality, culminating in frustrating league finishes and forgettable campaigns.
The left-back role arguably provides the perfect summation of those times. No matter the progression or trajectory of the club, the long-term image of the manager or the changing dynamics of the team’s philosophy, Liverpool’s left-back problem never wavered.
In a world of change, it was a constant.
Notable mentions to Fabio Aurelio, a truly gifted full-back until injuries began to take their toll, John Arne Riise, a player every much ahead of his time as a modern-day full back constantly on the overlap, and even Jamie Carragher, who had a stint on the left, aside, Anfield has played witness to the disappointing recruitment of a left-back for some time now:
Paul Konchesky, who made just eighteen appearances for the club in 2010/11 before being swiftly shipped off by Kenny Dalglish, offered the living embodiment of the Roy Hodgson era. Jose Enrique was decent going forward but struggled when tasked with actual defensive duties.
Aly Cissokho will be remembered for his assist for Suarez’s stellar header against West Brom but little else while Alberto Moreno is akin to a bull in a china shop, overzealous and overcommitting in the extreme.
I could go on.
You could therefore forgive people for assuming that Andy Robertson’s £8m move from Hull City would go the same way. After all, he wasn’t a big name per se. Would he be the latest in the long line of left-back failings?
The answer is of course, no.
A slow start saw Robertson as understudy to Alberto Moreno such was the Spaniard’s impressive form. However, after being forced off the pitch during Liverpool’s resounding win against Spartak Moscow, an opportunity arose for the Scotsman to establish himself. A chance he’s grasped with both hands, the 24-year-old hasn’t looked back since, establishing himself as a fan favourite on Merseyside.
Known for his exuberant running and incisive crosses that have added another dimension to an already scintillating attack alongside a resilience in defence, he has become an integral part of Jurgen Klopp’s side at both ends of the field, making a total of 56 appearances for the club while starting every Premier League game this season.
From an attacking standpoint, Robertson’s influence has been clear. Not only providing a consistent outlet down the left-hand side, he’s become a potent weapon for Liverpool when tasked with breaking down low-block defences. The ability to maraud forward and put dangerous crosses into the box has culminated in a multitude of chances for the front-three since his arrival, perfectly embodying the role of a modern-day full-back.
Where prior left-backs have failed in a defensive sense, the 24-year-old has shone, showing diligence in his duties. Rarely caught out of position, his positional sense and desire to chip in with the hard tackles has been a key part of Liverpool’s much improved defensive record, conceding just ten goals in 22 league games so far.
Arguably the best representation of his importance, the possibility of losing Robertson for an extended period of time could be considered as fatal as an injury to Alisson or Van Dijk. Just over a year ago you wouldn’t have been able to get odds from betbrain free bets on Robertson being in the team of the year but I’m sure you’ll get short odds on that now as he cements his place as the best left-back in the Premier League.
Not only a consistent performer but also a working-class hero, Robertson’s journey from unemployment to stardom is a remarkable story of a man whose been through the good and bad, persevering in the face of adversity and now enjoying the reward.
It’s proved a huge benefit to the club too, with Liverpool finally turning a position of weakness into one of real strength, finding the right piece of the puzzle in a player who epitomises the drive, passion and determination of his manager.
So much for ‘no one wants the left-back’s shirt’, Robbo.