Andy Robertson's injury problems highlight need for left-back changes

Few players have epitomised this glorious era at Liverpool more than Andy Robertson.

The Scot has played a huge part in the Reds' success with Jurgen Klopp at the helm, combining elite-level quality with a winning mentality, strong character and perfect team ethic.

There is even the element of the underdog about him, in terms of arriving on the cheap from Hull City back in 2017, when more glittery left-back options were being mentioned instead.

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For nearly seven years, Robertson's standing as an indispensable player for Liverpool has been unquestionable, with the 30-year-old arguably even usurping the likes of Alan Kennedy and Gerry Byrne as the greatest left-back to have played for the club.

Not only a dogged defender who gives every last ounce of fight, but also a massive threat going forward, Robertson has the most assists (59) in the Premier League history for a defender.

That's one more than Trent Alexander-Arnold, by the way.

Andy Robertson - the Liverpool player was injured playing for Scotland

Scotland v Northern Ireland International Friendly, Länderspiel, Nationalmannschaft Andrew Robertson of Scotland is forced off early during the International Friendly match at Hampden Park, Glasgow Copyright: xJamiexJohnstonx FIL-19888-0076

For the first time, however, doubts have started to creep in about Robertson, in terms of being Liverpool's first-choice left-back on a regular basis.

The Scotland captain's 2023/24 season was an injury-affected one, limiting him to 18 league starts out of a possible 38, and many years of intense football under Klopp may be catching up with him.

Those relentless, marauding runs forward arguably don't quite have the purpose they once did, and with Arne Slot's style of play expected to be similarly non-stop, does Robertson have enough left in the tank to be a key starter?

Tsimikas out, new left back in?

Now 30, it is only natural that his legs don't quite have as much life in them now, but the injuries that have started creeping in are also a reason for thinking about signing a long-term replacement.

On Monday, Robertson left an open training session with Scotland with a latest fitness issue, throwing his involvement in the Euro 2024 opener against Germany on Friday in doubt.

Granted, it looks as though Liverpool's popular defender will be fit for the game, as things stand, but he no longer feels as reliable as he once did.

Ideally, sporting director Richard Hughes will decide to offload Kostas Tsimikas in the summer transfer window, bringing an end to the Greek's time as a Reds player.

He has had his moments, not least that memorable winning penalty in the 2022 FA Cup final, but too often, he hasn't offered enough consistency, particularly in a defensive sense.

Should Liverpool manage to receive a decent fee for Tsimikas, those funds can be partly used on finding a superior option - someone who can genuinely challenge Robertson and become the go-to left-back option moving forward.

Joe Gomez was excellent in that role in 2023/24, but he is not the solution there.

Robinson and Ait-Nouri tick the boxes

Fulham's Antonee Robinson has often impressed against Liverpool, and the USA international could be the type of player that ticks plenty of boxes for Slot. In fact, Jermaine Jenas lauded his performance against the Reds earlier in the campaign, saying:

"Robinson was very unlucky to be on the losing team, down that left hand side the drive that he had, the determination to try and get behind Liverpool’s defence and the link ups with Iwobi were great. They just didn’t quite make the right decisions at the right times when they got into spaces. The energy that Robinson has got, still making runs late to get shots on target, he stood out like a sore thumb."

Robinson averaged 2.5 tackles and 2.2 interceptions per game across 37 Premier League games in 2023/24, all of which were starts, whereas Robertson's tallies were just 1.5 and 0.6 respectively.

At 26, the Fulham defender is four years younger than the Liverpool legend, and he could add the energy that Robertson can no longer provide week in, week out.

Another Premier League player, Rayan Ait-Nouri, could also be a great fit to be Robertson's successor for the Reds, even though he hasn't always played at left-back for Wolves, sometimes taking up a more attack-minded role.

Only 23, the Algerian is an athletic presence with real quality on the ball, and he averaged 1.9 dribbles per match in the league this season, compared to Robertson's surprisingly low total of 0.2, which speaks volumes about how his game has changed.

Both Robinson and Ait-Nouri stand out as strong options, but whether Fulham and Wolves are willing to offload their respective key players remains to be seen, and for realistic money.

Robertson remains key

None of this is to say that Robertson doesn't remain an important player for Liverpool, though - it's just a case of managing him sensibly and looking at the long-term picture.

When fully fit, there is no reason why he can't continue as first-choice for the time being, but he needs stronger competition at left-back, and potentially be in a position where he is rotated more than before.

Thirty is far from ancient, particularly in the modern game, but the nature of Robertson's style of play, and the miles that he has covered down the years, may mean that he has peaked as a player.

There should be no plans to sell him any time soon, but bringing in someone who can eventually replace him, and start regularly from the off, has to be seen as priority business for Slot this summer.

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