For all the talk of the need for Liverpool to reinforce their defence with new signings, their most consistent players ply their trade in the area.
Andy Robertson and Fabinho — previously a defensive midfielder who is learning to play in the heart of defence on the fly — have been the Reds standout performers so far in an attritional, compressed season.
With the long term injuries to both Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, the Champions’ preferred centre-half pairing, many fans feared the worst for Liverpool’s defence.
But, mostly thanks to the performances of Robertson and Fabinho, as well as Alisson behind them, the Reds’ backline hasn’t been the hellscape that was forecast by some.
If it wasn’t for the freakish horror show that was the 7-2 defeat away to Aston Villa — a game where van Dijk played, remember — Liverpool’s defence would be among the best in the league. Manchester City, with 13 conceded, currently lead the division in terms of defensive stinginess, whereas Jurgen Klopp’s team have seen their goalkeepers beaten 21 times.
It is the attack, funnily enough — considering the Reds have the best offensive record with 37 scored — that has been the determining factor in dropping recent points. At the time of writing, Liverpool are winless in three Premier League games after drawing to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle and losing at Southampton.
In these games — especially the clash at St James’ Park — the Reds manufactured ample chances and lead the XG by comfortable margins in each match. Mohamed Salah, in particular, has been guilty of being toothless in front of goal, and Klopp and co will be hopeful that he snaps out of his funk by the time Manchester United come to Anfield this Sunday.
Therefore, the fact that Liverpool still tops the table — although their destiny is out of their hands and both United and Manchester City will overtake them if they win their games in hand — is a testament to the performance levels of Robertson and Fabinho.
For the Scot to show this level of consistency, considering the physical responsibility placed on his shoulder as a left-back in the attacking system preferred at Anfield, is remarkable.
Robertson’s prowess extends to both sides of the ball and he has registered five Premier League assists so far as well as notching one goal; making amends for a rare mistake by confidently finishing past Bernd Leno in a 3-1 victory over Arsenal at Anfield. With an expected assist figure of 3.8, the Glaswegian — who has recently added set-piece taking to his considerable arsenal of weaponry — has exceeded his predicted numbers in attack.
Defensively, the Scotland captain has excelled and this is no mean feat, considering he has lost his regular partner on the left-hand side of the defence, van Dijk. Per stats sourced from FBRef, Robertson has completed 38% of his pressures — defined as a defensive action that leads to the team winning the ball back within five seconds of that action — this season and has also registered 25 successful tackles and interceptions.
Perhaps the signing of Kostas Tsimikas as a backup left-back has put pressure on the former Hull player — who hasn’t had a natural understudy in the Reds’ squad since the 2018/2019 season and Alberto Moreno — and he has tackled the challenge head-on.
Whatever it is, Robertson — in stark contrast to Trent Alexander Arnold, the player he is perennially judged against — is in rude form this season and if the Reds retain their title then their number 26 will be one of the, if not the, biggest factors in doing so.