Jose Mourinho built his tactics around stopping Andy Robertson when his Tottenham Hotspur side hosted Liverpool on Saturday.
Liverpool have the best full-back pairing in the world but one of them has earned more praise this season. Trent Alexander-Arnold has exploded and become one of Liverpool’s most influential players.
Robertson, on the other hand, is much of the same as he was when he arrived for £10m. He’s arguably the best left-back around but he’s a little in the shadow of his teammate.
Mourinho appeared to highlight Robertson over Alexander-Arnold, however, and not for the first time.
The Spurs boss used Serge Aurier as a right-midfielder in the game, whose sole task appeared to be tracking and marking Robertson. They didn’t give such undivided attention to anyone else. It had an interesting effect on the game, too.
Spurs limited Liverpool’s width with the decision. They completely negated that sweeping cross-field pass of Alexander-Arnold and in doing so, Liverpool weren’t able to create and exploit overloads. Robertson did manage to find space now and then but it was always on the counter.
It highlights a perhaps under-recognised part of Liverpool’s play and the importance of the Scot. While he doesn’t quite have the same influence on the ball as Alexander-Arnold, Robertson plays an enormous part in Liverpool’s system. They use him to create space and stretch teams, freeing up everyone else. Tactically, he might be the most important player in the side.
Mourinho recognised this, clearly, and set up to stop him. It’s a compliment to Liverpool that Spurs organised themselves purely to stop them. But it’s an even bigger compliment to Robertson that Mourinho picked him out as the key component of Liverpool.