Sport How Andy Robertson emerged from the shadows to become Liverpool's secret weapon
Why Jurgen Klopp should make three changes to his line up this weekend
Jurgen Klopp has opted to field the exact same starting eleven for all three of Liverpool’s games thus far. The Reds have not looked overly impressive in any of the outings and many of the players have looked tired. However, with three wins from three and no goals conceded, many will still feel there is no reason to alter the side. After all, they have done exactly what would have been asked of them in this results-based industry. The early kickoffs, however, have not been kind to Jurgen in his time at Liverpool so some fresh faces in the lineup might be exactly what is needed. Personally, I wanted the boss to ring the changes for Brighton at home. I felt it was a far ‘easier’ game than Leicester away and that it was the perfect time to utilize the squad. However, as we know, that did not happen. Many make the argument that the players are super fit and there is no reason to rest any of them. But, I don’t think this rotation needs to happen on the grounds of fatigue, I think it has got to happen to keep the squad players involved as well as keep competition for places alive. The most obvious candidate for a start is Jordan Henderson in the holding midfield role. Many of our fans have been baffled at Fabinho’s lack of minutes. It’s absolutely mind-boggling that. Look at how Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Andy Robertson performed after being eased into the mix by the boss. Fabinho needs time. Just have a look at Fred over at United. The man has looked absolutely awful.
"In fairness, they’re just not very good... But there’s one who can potentially be super, super, super good – and that’s Robertson.”
So went Hatem Ben Arfa’s assessment of the Hull squad of 2014/15. While his own, failed spell at the KCOM Stadium serves as more proof of a career unfulfilled, the mercurial Frenchman was astute in his projection of Andy Robertson’s development.
A player like Ben Arfa – a continental talent whose career has taken in spells with Lyon, Marseille, Newcastle, Nice, PSG and now Rennes – acknowledging the Scot's potential is particularly interesting.
Unlike Ben Arfa, whose spell in the Clairefontaine academy propelled him towards stardom, Robertson endured a rocky rise as a young player. He was released by boyhood club Celtic as a 15-year-old for being too small. But his Parkhead exit only spurred him on, and he operated quietly in the shadows with Queen’s Park and then Dundee United, before securing his £2.85m move to Hull.
Andrew Robertson named as Scotland captain
Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson has been named as the new Scotland captain. The 24-year-old left-back has been given the honour by Alex McLeish and he’ll lead his side out at Hampden Park on Friday evening when they host World Cup semi-finalists Belgium in a friendly game. Robertson has 22 caps to his name already and he’ll be looking to add many more whilst wearing the armband. Following the retirement of Scott Brown, both Charlie Mulgrew and Scott McKenna had captained Scotland in recent friendly games but McLeish has decided to give Robertson the role on a permanent basis. The honour caps a great rise over the last 12 months for the defender, who signed for Liverpool from Hull City last summer.
FROM LARGS TO LIVERPOOL
“Andy’s response was to say, ‘I’ll prove you wrong’. He played in the first warm-up game at Largs and I don’t think he went out of the team again until he left us,” former Queen’s Park manager Gardner Speirs recounted in an interview with the Telegraph last year.
“Andy’s performances meant that we couldn’t leave him out, even though he was so young. You could see his attitude, determination and ability. He was a first pick for the whole [2012/13] season.”
That determination has taken him far. Eventually, to England and the Premier League in 2014, where Jurgen Klopp identified him as a future Liverpool player; an alternative to Ben Chilwell, who spurned the Reds’ advances to sign a new contract with Leicester in 2016.
Robertson hailed as perfect pro
Scotland manager Alex McLeish has described the new Scotland captain Andrew Robertson as a ‘real pro’ and lauds him as the ideal player to be the country’s new captain, according to TalkSPORT. The Liverpool full-back has been brilliant over the last year for Jurgen Klopp’s side and has been rewarded for his efforts being named the new Scottish captain, taking over from Scott Brown following his retirement. In such little time, the 24-year-old has made magnificent progress, going from the lower league in Scotland to the Champions League final to show just how quickly he has developed his game. Robertson was signed by Liverpool from Hull City following their relegation and he has not looked back since replacing Alberto Moreno as the club’s first choice left-back. He has 22 caps to-date scoring two goals in that time and is set to lead his side out for the first time this weekend when they face Belgium. The Scotland boss has spoken of admiration of Robertson after handing him the captaincy: “Andy is the epitome of a true pro and he sets an amazing example. He’s had rejection before and he’s shown that spirit of never giving up. He chose to be a professional footballer and he’s living that dream.
Robertson, meanwhile, joined Liverpool for just £8m in 2017. He was forced to bide his time at first, which – as he told FourFourTwo magazine in our latest issue – was “a new situation for me and I probably didn’t deal with it well.” Yet the same spirit that fuelled a hungry youngster in Mount Florida, Glasgow, ultimately secured him a starting role. Now, he is one of Klopp’s most important players for myriad reasons.
“It's by continuing to show this attitude and this mentality that he will achieve what he dreams of at the highest level of the game,” the Liverpool manager explained during the initial five-month period where Robertson started just four of a possible 24 games.
“Robbo – and others who have been in this position until now – are as important to what we want to achieve as anyone else in the dressing room. Without them, without their desire and hunger to compete and contribute, we will achieve nothing. With them – and with them recognising their importance and value – we are so strong.”
Liverpool approach agent of Arsenal target Adrien Rabiot
Liverpool have made contact with the agent of Arsenal target Adrien Rabiot about the Frenchman joining the Reds on a free transfer next summer, according to a report from EPSN FC. Whilst Liverpool have been prepared to splash the cash in the last few transfer windows, they’ve also been keen to swoop when a potential bargain is available. Joel Matip and Dominic Solanke both joined the Reds on free transfers from Champions League clubs, whilst the Reds were all too happy to pay smaller fees to relegated clubs for the likes of Andy Robertson and Xherdan Shaqiri. Rabiot has rejected the chance to sign a new contract with the Ligue 1 champions and as such, he is available on a free transfer next summer, and he can agree to a move in January by signing a pre-contract agreement. Rabiot grew up as a Liverpool fan and was once quoted as saying: “I would love to play in the Premier League…I was very fond of Liverpool when I was young.” A host of clubs, including Arsenal Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Tottenham have been linked with moves for Rabiot but it looks like Liverpool are trying to beat them all to his signature by making an early move.
MAKING HIS MARK
It took until the start of December 2017 for Robertson to stamp his imprint in Klopp’s side, and this slow transition helped him adjust to the demands of the German’s high-intensity system, as well as acclimatise to a group with top-level ambitions. The players he was tasked with supporting were Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané, who alternated duties on the left flank before the Brazilian’s move to Barcelona in January.
Initially, Coutinho seemed reluctant to offload the ball to the overlapping Robertson. But then things changed: a standout performance from left-back in the Reds’ 4-0 win at Bournemouth in December 2017 featured the pair intertwining with devastating effect, including a move which resulted in the opening goal for the Liverpool No.10.
Their partnership lasted just three more games. Coutinho’s departure to the Camp Nou, and the subsequent failure to negotiate an early deal for Naby Keita, meant Mané's importance magnified. The Senegalese was able to translate his creativity and dribbling ability into a drifting role from the left, more often than not taking up the role of central playmaker.
Liverpool's Robertson heaps praise on Hazard ahead of international clash
Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson has hailed Chelsea winger Eden Hazard ahead of Scotland’s international fixture with Belgium this week. As quoted by talkSPORT, the Reds left-back was full of praise for his Chelsea counterpart, who he will be looking to keep quiet in the international friendly at Hampden Park on Friday night. “He is special. The way he turns and gets at players and commits two or three defenders, there’s not many that have that. He has been unbelievable for Chelsea and Belgium and it is somebody that we need to watch.” Robertson was recently named as the new captain of the Scottish national team and highlighted Hazard as Belgium’s primary threat, admitting that he regards the player as one of the best in the world. “He is probably in the top five [players in the world] at the minute. I have come up against him many times so I know what threat he can have. Even if he is having a quiet game, he can pop up at any point and turn a game. That is what we are up against.” Hazard has enjoyed a strong start to life under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, featuring regularly under the Italian and flourishing in the Italian’s forward-thinking style. Although Robertson was quick to lavish praise on the qualities of Hazard, he insisted that the focus cannot be solely placed upon the Chelsea star given Belgium’s prowess of attacking talents. “The problem with Belgium is, you can’t focus on just Hazard because somebody else pops up. We have to be aware of all of their threats.” Robertson and Hazard could face each other three times this month, with Chelsea and Liverpool meeting in both the Carabao Cup and the Premier League before the end of September.
Mané has thrived on his increased importance, and key to this has been Klopp’s belief in the 24-year-old Robertson as an all-rounder. In Liverpool’s front-footed attacking system, the full-backs are crucial – the Scot and Trent Alexander-Arnold typically touch the ball more than any other player.
In Liverpool’s perfect, four-game opening salvo, Robertson has created 10 chances. Only two players – David Silva and Mohamed Salah (both 13) – have been more productive in the Premier League. Liverpool's marauding No.26 finds himself level with Eden Hazard and Sergio Aguero, with the disparity in their reputations another prime example of Robertson’s unassuming rise.
It's come after he registered the most assists for the Reds in pre-season (four), and with two in the league plus another for Scotland, Robertson has already laid on seven goals in 15 games since the summer warm-ups began. Further to this, he's also tallied one ‘hockey assist’ (the pass before an assist).
FROM DEFICIENT TO DEPENDABLE
Beyond the surging runs, pinpoint deliveries and penetrating one-touch passing, Robertson provides Liverpool with a steely defensive presence at left-back, aided by the presence of the imperious Virgil van Dijk. His efforts in defence are markedly improved from his arrival, and Klopp himself has explained that Robertson's previous deficiencies at the back were “why there weren’t 500 clubs out there asking about him”. An appreciation of when to drop and when to push have made the Scot a secret weapon for Liverpool, driving from deep.
Robertson aims to lead by example for Scotland
Liverpool full-back and new Scotland Captain Andy Robertson has said that leading his country to a major tournament would be his greatest footballing achievement. Robertson enjoyed a breakthrough season for the Reds last season, having joined from Hull City last summer for just £8million. Now, as national captain, Robertson has ambition to take his country back to the big stage for the first time since 1998. As reported by BBC Sport, Robertson said: “The biggest honour you can have is to play for your country.” “If you are the one to lead them back to a championship then that would be special. It will be special for all the lads because none of us have experienced it.” At just 24-years old, Robertson is reasonably young to have received the captaincy, and the left-back is aiming to lead by example against Belgium at Hampden Park on Friday. He continued: “I aim to lead by example on the pitch and off it. If anyone ever needs someone to talk to, I’m the man to do it.” “I made my debut quite young, so I thought I aim to be in this squad for a long time.” “Once you make your debut, you think ‘can I captain this team?’. You can’t quite imagine it.” “I’m delighted it’s happened at an early age and hopefully I can lead this country for a long time.
The Reds’ suffocating system is reliant on every player contributing, so when they win the ball, Robertson is as important as Keita, Mané, Salah or Roberto Firmino going forward.
Aged just 24, there is a pervading sense that the blossoming full-back can establish himself as a Liverpool staple in years to come – a notion that stems not just from his prominence on the pitch, but also his association with the club’s values off it.
Robertson regularly gives to food banks, and while this is certainly appreciated in a working-class city that’s been ravaged by austerity like Liverpool, it’s nothing new for the player. For his 21st birthday, he asked his friends and family to donate money they might spend on a gift to food banks. “If someone wants to buy me a bottle of vodka I'd rather they donate the £20,” Robertson told the Guardian in May 2018.
The major boost in his profile since has allowed Robertson to bring further awareness to a cause he cares about. In March 2018, for example, he rewarded a young food bank donor, Alfie Radford, with a signed, match-worn Liverpool shirt. Ever humble, however, the full-back ensured Alfie received the jersey of a more glamorous Liverpool player – Roberto Firmino – rather than his own.
Robertson is now Scotland captain – announced last week – and has been tipped by Klopp as a “leader in the future”. He is a throwback to an era Liverpool are striving to revive; and it's no surprise that Tony Barrett, the club’s supporter liaison and a direct line to the Kop, described him as the Reds’ best left-back since Steve Nicol.
Like Robertson, Nicol was adept both in defence and attack, and this consistency at both ends allowed him to become a mainstay for the club throughout its most successful period in the 1980s. It will be a tall order for Robertson to emulate his countryman as Klopp eyes silverware, but there’s little denying that he can match Ben Arfa’s expectations as a “super good” player. He already is.
Robertson calls for Liverpool to ignore Neymar's antics .
Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson has called on his side to ignore Neymar’s reputation for theatrics ahead of the Champions League clash against PSG on Tuesday night. The Reds welcome the Ligue 1 giants to Anfield in their first group stage fixture of the new Champions League campaign, with an exciting game on the cards. Robertson is set to be one of the Liverpool defenders who is tasked with coping with the undeniable threat of PSG’s deadly attacking trio, which consists of Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani and, of course, Neymar. Brazilian international Neymar has come under fire in recent months for his antics, having been accused of diving regularly at this summer’s World Cup. However, Robertson was quick to insist that the onus is only on stopping the enigmatic wide player from putting his skills to good use. As quoted by ESPN, the Scotland captain outlined Neymar’s threat ahead of Tuesday’s fixture. “What I do know is that he’s a world-class player and we need to be wary of him. His skills speak for themselves. Yeah, people say he goes down too easily, but that’s not up to us. It’s up to the referee to decide. We’ll stay away from that.” “For us, we’ve got to concentrate on the qualities. Unfortunately for us, he has a lot of them. It’s one player that we’ll have to be wary of. The bad thing for us is that they’ve got quite a lot of players that we’ll have to be wary of. On the other side, a good thing for us is that we’ve got a lot of players that can cause them problems.” Robertson is likely to be handed the responsibility of keeping Mbappé at bay, with the France star poised to line up on the right-hand side of Thomas Tuchel’s attacking trident. Neymar, meanwhile, could operate in his favoured spot on the left wing, with Trent Alexander-Arnold likely to be handed one of the biggest tests of his career to date.
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