Andy Robertson: Liverpool weak-link or unfair scapegoat?

Liverpool supporters need a scapegoat - it's almost an unwritten part of being a fan. You can't
just love all the players and not single one out for blame.

We have seen endless instances of this down the years, with Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita the most recent examples, with their legions of detractors always desperate to put them down at any given opportunity.

With the midfield duo now part of Liverpool's past, however, having moved on to pastures new this summer, who was going to step up to the plate?

Curtis Jones has stood out as a leading contender, considering he hasn't kicked on like many would have hoped, and the fact that some seem irked that he gets leeway for being a local lad, but someone else has stood out more in recent months.

That man is Andy Robertson - arguably the greatest Reds left-back of all time, not to mention one of the standout full-backs of the past decade in any league.

Andy Robertson

The Scot arrived on the cheap from Hull City back in 2017, to much frustration from those who wanted a more glittery signing, but he has been a phenomenal servant.

Robertson has combined dogged defensive work and a feisty winning mentality with real quality going forward, registering 63 assists along the way.

No player in the history of the Premier League has more to his name.

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Since Jurgen Klopp decided to tweak his system at the back-end of last season, however, Robertson has become a real target for a chunk of the fanbase.

Having to alter his role in order to accommodate Trent Alexander-Arnold floating into midfield, there is no doubt that the 29-year-old found it hard to adjust.

There have been times when his positional sense has left a lot to be desired, while his natural attacking instincts have left Liverpool too exposed when Alexander-Arnold is already out of his right-back area.

Robertson struggled in those latter months of the 2022/23 campaign, and in Sunday's 1-1 draw away to Chelsea he had another uncomfortable day at the office.

The fact that Liverpool appear to be pushing hard to sign a left-sided centre-back who can also play at left-back suggests the club want genuine competition for 'Robbo', and that they could even be eyeing an upgrade.

While Robertson certainly isn't in his best run in a Reds shirt, though, some of the overreaction to his performances has been scandalous at times in recent days.

What happened to showing patience with a legendary figure in a complex new role?

Andy Robertson

Against Chelsea, he cut a ruffled figure in the first half in particular, with Reece James and Raheem Sterling continually doubling up on him, and the Blues targeted his area of the pitch.

What seems to have been forgotten by those choosing to pile in on Robertson is that he was also given almost no protection from Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz in front of him, with the latter ineffective in a rare midfield role, both on and off the ball.

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Alexis Mac Allister impressed in the No.6 position on his competitive debut, but he is also far from an out-and-out defensive midfielder who is going to protect the back-line expertly.

Essentially, Robertson was horribly exposed because he was in an attack-minded Liverpool side that had a complete lack of defensive cover, so it is hugely unfair to overly criticise his performance.

He still made seven clearances, won two out of three ground duels and made two tackles and interceptions apiece, so this was far from the hapless showing it has been painted as by some.

Moving forward, Robertson clearly has to improve in this new position, showing Klopp that he is up to the task in a tactical sense, but why can't he master it?

At 29, he is still in and around his peak years as a footballer, and playing a more disciplined role could even extend his career, with fewer lung-busting runs down the left flank required.

He has shown what an intelligent footballer he is so many times throughout his Liverpool career, and those writing him off could easily be made to look foolish over time.

That's not to say someone of Goncalo Inacio's ilk isn't needed, however, with the Sporting CP youngster a potentially superb signing with a massive future, and the Reds have to sign a defender of some kind this summer, even if it's not him.

Robertson can do better than what we have witnessed either side of the summer - he will know that more than anyone - but the bottom line is that he deserves time to show that he can still excel with his game being altered.

Saturday's home clash with Bournemouth in the Premier League should hopefully be a more comfortable outing for him, and a great opportunity to work on the role.

There was impatience when Robertson first arrived at Anfield six years ago, as he adjusted to Klopp's style for a number of months, and the naysayers were out in force calling him Alberto Moreno to be first choice.

Now, the same thing is happening for a second time, and it would be just like the Scotland captain
to silence the doubters all over again.

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