After last week's impressive debut by John Flanagan, it seems only fitting this week to take a closer look at the latest young player getting a chance with the first team, with an every-touch (and tackle) compilation of Jack Robinson1 against Arsenal.
It wasn't actually Jack Robinson's debut in the Premier League. That came two managers back, when he was only sixteen, in the final two minutes against Hull City in the final game of last season's Premier League campaign. It made him the youngest player to ever play in the league for Liverpool, a record that he still holds though appearances by the even younger Raheem Sterling and Suso in this year's pre-season left Robinson only the third youngest player to get any kind of run out with the first team.
Right off the top, Robinson's introduction provides a reminder of how well Kenny Dalglish deals with the younger players from the academy, players he in many cases spent time with during the two seasons spent in an ambassadorial and player development role after Rafa Benitez brought him back to the club. It's a connection seen again later in the match when taking John Flanagan aside after the fullback's collision with Jamie Carragher led to the stand-in captain being stretchered off the pitch in a neck brace.
As for Robinson, though his feet perhaps gave lie to early nerves with a couple of slips on the Emirates turf, he quickly found his feet on the way to effectively shutting down England regular and exceptionally pacy headless chicken Theo Walcott. In Walcott, Arsenal have a winger whose end product may at times disappoint, but his pure pace can never be doubted, and with the significant Premier League experience that he does have it would have been entirely reasonable for fans to fear for the young Liverpool fullback's hide.
At the other end of the field, it has to be noted that Robinson didn't get down the pitch all that often to help provide attacking width against Arsenal. In the end that is of course one of a fullback's more important jobs--at times his most important job, depending on the system--but for a young kid making his first major appearance on the road against the number two side in the table and with a pacy winger up against him, it's hard to find much to fault regardless. In any case, even if he wasn't especially adventurous, he at least looked far more comfortable on the ball than Danny Wilson has when occasion has seen the center back forced to fill in on the outside. That does suggest there's reason to hope for the future at left back, perhaps even for the near future against less attacking sides at Anfield. Perhaps even for when Birmingham comes to visit on Saturday, with there being every chance that both of Liverpool's new pair of fullbacks who can't grow a beard between them will start.
For both Robinson and Flanagan, though, people would do well to remember just how young they are, and that they're at a position that often doesn't see players really hit their peak until they've been around for another entire decade. Both of them have shown huge promise, though, and shown that in a pinch they might even have it in them to do a job for the club already. Still, to expect and pressure either one of them to be able to contribute both consistently and over the long term, at the kind of level Liverpool would need to be a top-four side moving forward, would likely end up doing more harm than good to each player's long term development.
However, that's more a worry for the summer than for right now, so in the meantime, here's to hoping for a few more quality performances by the youngsters before the season comes to an end.
1 No, Google, I do not mean Jackie Robinson