Joseph Kavaloski explains why Hull City’s Andrew Roberson would be a great addition to Liverpool’s squad.
Since Alberto Moreno began his frustrating underperformance, Liverpool has consistently been linked with left backs from around the globe. Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, had a different idea in the form of James Milner.
The vice captain’s transition to left back from midfield has been seamless, but at 31 years of age with significant mileage on his legs, Milner is likely not the long-term solution. Plus, the Reds will be competing in Europe next season, further necessitating an addition to the left side of the defence.
Therefore, the Reds are in the market for a younger player who can learn and train behind Milner while earning limited playing time before eventually taking over as the full-time player at that position. Ben Chilwell was Klopp’s top target at the beginning of the summer, but he has since re-committed to Leicester.
As a result, the German’s focus has now shifted to another young defender in the form of Andrew Robertson. The young Scottland international is currently playing for relegation battlers Hull City where he has made a total of 18 appearances this season (15 in the league).
At 22 years old, Robertson is still a young player with significant room for improvement. Playing for Hull has given him a good opportunity to receive playing time, but it has also limited his ability to improve his attacking instincts as Hull is often forced to play defensively against more talented teams.
Hull’s playing style has limited Robertson’s ability to develop on one end of the pitch, but it has also aided in the growth of his defending. The Scottish international has averaged a solid 2 tackles, 1.3 interceptions, and 2.1 clearances per match.
For comparison, Milner has recorded an average of 2.3 tackles, 1.3 interceptions, and 2.8 clearances. Robertson’s statistics are inferior to that of Milner, but considering that Liverpool’s left-back has been one of the best at his position in the Premier League (if not all of Europe) this season, Robertson’s performance is even more impressive.
Although Robertson has not been quite as effective going forward as he has in his defensive work, there are a couple positives that can be gleaned from his time this year. Robertson has attempted 40 crosses this season and completed eight of them. That is a success rate of 20% -10% higher than that of Milner.
Robertson has completed only one fewer cross than Liverpool’s makeshift left back, yet he has attempted 48 fewer crosses. Robertson is clearly adept at putting crosses into the eighteen-yard box that challenges a defence. The Reds are a team that tend to rely more on playing with the ball at their feet, but as Georginio Wijnaldum’s goal against Manchester City proved, having a player who can swing in a dangerous cross is still a valuable commodity.
Another positive that can be taken away from Robertson’s performance this season has been his passing. At 77%, the Scotsman could certainly be better in this area, but when considering that Hull rarely is able to play a free-flowing, possession style, this mark is actually very respectable.
Plus, passing accuracy does not always give the full story of a player. Nathaniel Clyne completed only 78% of his passes last season yet was arguably one of the three best fullbacks in the Premier League. Robertson would certainly improve his pass success rate in Klopp’s system while further improving as he matures.
The links between Robertson and Liverpool have certainly declined over the past few months, but Milner is not getting any younger and it does not appear as though Klopp trusts Moreno as a long-term option. That being said, the Reds will have to pay up if they truly want their man as Robertson recently signed a contract extension through the 2017-18 season that will give Hull leverage in any negotiations.
Regardless of the financial moves that would be necessary to bring Robertson to Anfield, the Scotsman is almost the perfect target for Klopp’s side. He is already a solid defender and under the German’s tutelage, could easily become a dynamic threat down the left flank. It is unclear whether Liverpool will revisit this transfer in the current window or over the summer, but adding Robertson would be a savvy move by the Reds.