INJURIES can have a massive impact on a football team, writes LACHLAN BALLINGALL.
As seen last season, injury and absence can derail a campaign. But, in another sense, it can also give backup players the opportunity to shine — assuming there is enough depth in the squad to cope with it.
When Alberto Moreno was forced off the field during Liverpool’s 7-0 thumping of Spartak Moscow in the Champions League back in early December, the door opened for a player who was, prior to that, simply not getting a look in.
That was Andrew Robertson, the left back signed from Hull City for a fee of £8million back in the summer.
Robertson spent the first few months watching on from the sidelines as he was still adapting to life at Liverpool. It was believed that Robertson would come in and compete with James Milner for the left-back spot, with Moreno reported to be on his way out, but the Spaniard’s performances during pre season saw Jürgen Klopp have a change of heart.
Robertson couldn’t really have any complaints as Moreno was playing to a high standard. If anything, the Scot’s arrival played a huge part in his new teammate’s resurgence, giving him the motivation needed to kickstart his Liverpool career.
The injury came at the worst time for Moreno. He was in his best run of form since arriving at Anfield, but now he’ll have to fight to win his spot back from Robertson — which can only be a good thing for The Reds.
Robertson’s first real opportunity to impress came against Crystal Palace at home when Moreno was rested. He impressed with the way he defended and complimented the attack, displaying his ability to cross the ball, which was the most pleasing aspect of his performance that day.
Prior to that though, Robertson was something of an unknown quantity. He was highly regarded at Hull but, with all due respect, that’s a completely different world to playing for Liverpool. Being part of a defensive unit that had to regular sit back and grind out results isn’t entirely transferable to being a part of Klopp’s “heavy metal” football.
Since Moreno’s injury, Robertson certainly hasn’t passed up on the opportunity to impress. In fact, his performances of late had gone somewhat under the radar. That was until the Merseyside derby where, although new signing Virgil van Dijk stole the headlines, the young Scot put in a fantastic display.
Throughout the game Robertson completed five out of his six challenges. He also had four clearances and one interception. He completed 89 per cent of his passes. He dealt with the threat of Yannick Bolasie superbly, when it seemed that Everton had singled out Liverpool’s left-hand side as the area they could get at in the first half.
However, the most about admirable aspect of his performance on the night was that he played as though he was involved in an all-or-nothing cup game against city rivals. Some players can go missing in those games but he really stood out.
Perhaps more surprisingly, Robertson has shown a bit of bite, something many supporters believe has all too often been absent among many of The Reds’ current crop. He was in the ref’s ear throughout the Leicester City game at Anfield on December 30, as The Foxes tried to run the clock down.
Robertson has also shown in both of those games that he’s not afraid to put a tackle in and — where Moreno has so often gone wrong in the past — is rarely caught out on the defensive end.
The signing of Robertson may go down as one of Klopp’s savviest bits of business during his tenure at Liverpool, but only time will tell.
Left back has been a problem position at Liverpool for too long, but Klopp now has two very talented lads to choose from.
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