Andy Robertson has become a cult hero at Anfield since arriving from Hull City in the summer of 2017 for a bargain £8 million.
This season, the flying Scotsman has registered a remarkable nine league assists by whipping in pinpoint crosses from the left, including the one he delivered for Roberto Firmino on Sunday.
He has as many assists as Manchester City pair Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, and is also on a par with “best form of his life” Paul Pogba.
The only players with more assists than our left-back are fellow Scot, Ryan Fraser, and Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen who both have ten, while Eden Hazard tops the chart on 11 for the season.
Most assists in a single Premier League season by a Liverpool defender:
🔴 Andy Robertson (9 in 2018/19)
🔴 Stig Inge Bjørnebye (8 in 1996/97)
🔴 John Arne Riise (7 in 2004/05)
Robertson Carlos breaks the record. pic.twitter.com/BGqdmnpY3C
— Coral (@Coral) March 31, 2019
By creating chances from left-back Robbo has emerged as a candidate to topple the record for most league assists in a single season.
That accolade is currently held across Stanley Park. In the 2010-11 season, Leighton Baines provided 11 assists matching the record set by another Everton player – Andy Hinchcliffe – who set that benchmark in the 1994-95 campaign.
Robertson already has the same number of assists as Nicky Shorey and Mark Venus. Interestingly, nearly all of the defenders registering record assists are left-backs.
9 – Andy Robertson has nine assists for @LFC in the Premier League this season; Andy Hinchliffe (1994-95) and Leighton Baines (2010-11) are the only defenders to have had more in a single campaign (both 11). Delivery. #LIVTOT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 31, 2019
The full-back position has always been perceived to be an unglamorous role to play. That said, left-backs have traditionally been more eye-catching than their counterparts on the right.
While clearly not the case for Liverpool – considering Trent on the right – traditionally, left-backs are about whipping in crosses, offering an option for the overlap, and taking a shot from distance.
A right-sided full-back is more conservative; their task is to stop wingers, offer an outlet for a pass back to the heart of defence, or, just get rid.
But, what are the actual footballing differences between the sinistral and the dextral?
Well, common logic dictates that for a left-back you want a left-footer – the main exception to the rule being Paolo Maldini. But he was so sublime exactly because he was an exception for a left-back.
A left-back like Robbo needs to overlap and be able to cross at full-tilt, so it stands to reason that you would want someone who can naturally dig out a cross with their favoured foot from the left.
This also explains why many left-sided wingers end up at full-back; Jordi Alba and David Alaba both started life as wingers.
🔴 Tottenham’s outside central midfielders were tasked with tracking the Liverpool full-backs, but their lack of coverage across the pitch allowed the hosts to use regular switches to find Trent Alexander-Arnold and in this case Andy Robertson in space. #LIVTOT pic.twitter.com/kci6ujPnNP
— The Coaches’ Voice (@CoachesVoice) April 3, 2019
It’s a different story at right-back, though. Centre-backs are often converted into right-backs because of their more defensive-minded tasks. Like Joe Gomez, at right-back you want a right-footer, right?
Because most players are right-footed, a right-sided winger will naturally take the outside forcing the defender on the right flank to protect the space behind.
At left-back there is more space to provide an overlap for their teammates in attack because the majority of players are right-footed.
A right-footed winger playing on the left is going to want to cut inside, leaving space for his left-back to make the run beyond him, receive the ball, and put it in the box. At Liverpool, this scenario has been played out umpteen times with Robertson and Sadio Mané.
So, in this situation a left-back will always have more space to push up then a right-back – unless a manager plays inverted wingers or they can call on two left-footed wingers. Therefore, the left-back is presented with more opportunities to create assists and the right-back shores up the other flank.
Andy Robertson now has as many all-time PL assists as Jack Wilshere and Mo Salah
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) March 31, 2019
Of course, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s abilities down the right represent an exception to this rule, which is one of the reasons the Reds have been so deadly going forward this season.
Like Trent on the opposite flank, Klopp has prioritised his full-backs as attacking outlets whose assaults down the sides also push back opposition wingers. This forces play into a narrow midfield for the likes of Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum to break up play and feed the ball back out wide.
Robertson is an indispensable part of Jürgen Klopp’s tactical pattern and has become key in both defensive and offensive sides of the game. With six games to go the Glaswegian left-back will fancy a few more assists to break the record.