Most teams are lucky if they have one really good fullback. Liverpool have been blessed with two. Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are both legitimately world class, and they both share the lead on the team for assists with 5 on the season each. Watching the game against Brighton and Hove Albion, however, highlighted for me just how different their games are, and how well Jurgen Klopp sets them up for success. Let’s take look at how these two play and how it fits the team.
The Artist and the Hard Charger
While Trent and Robbo both play the same position, they play it quite differently. Just from a visual standpoint, it is quite apparent. The local lad, Trent Alexander-Arnold, is an artist, painting masterpieces with his right foot. Andy Robertson, on the other hand, uses his speed and physicality to run past, or through, players carrying the ball down the wing.
Both fullbacks are involved in Liverpool’s transition play, but in very different ways. When Alexander-Arnold receives the ball in the defensive half, he immediately has his head up, looking to play the ball down the line to Mohamed Salah. If Salah is not available, his next look is a long diagonal to Sadio Mane or Andy Robertson as they fly down the opposite wing. Robertson, on the other hand, looks to get up the field to Sadio Mane, but is also just as likely to carry the ball himself. Robertson has the most dribbles (12) outside of the front three. When Robertson breaks the lines, he looks for an early driven cross for one of the front three to run onto, or he drives to the end line looking for a cutback.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has become one of the best playmakers in the Premier League. The 21 year old Scouser is second in the league for key passes with 48, only 4 back from Kevin De Bruyne. When Liverpool are in possession, Alexander-Arnold tucks inside, taking up a position you would expect from a midfielder. In fact, Jordan Henderson often slides out wide to make space for Alexander-Arnold. This allows for Trent to see more of the ball as well as change the angle of his delivery.
Heat maps for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson (SofaScore) pic.twitter.com/9E3kmqZagj— GeoGabe (@Geo_Gabe) December 1, 2019
Andy Robertson, on the other hand, tends to look for combination play with the likes of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Robertson has almost 100 more passes than Trent (981 to 888), and with almost 200 more short passes (781 to 585). His combination play tends to be in and around the edge of the box. When Robertson gets the ball in these positions, he looks for a quick square ball across the six yard box, or he drives to the end line for a cut back. Twice against Brighton, Robertson came close to setting up goals with his cut backs.
Heat maps for Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (SofaScore) pic.twitter.com/F22ghSml4j— GeoGabe (@Geo_Gabe) December 1, 2019
The Princes of Assists
As mentioned, both fullbacks are currently on 5 assists, tied for the team lead. Since last season, they have served up 33 assists between them. Trent’s pinpoint deliveries, both from open play and from set pieces, find attackers making darting runs. Robertson is more an agent of chaos, creating spaces for himself and drawing defenders with marauding runs before intelligently sliding the ball across the face of goal. They dynamic between the two fullbacks gives Liverpool a dynamic that is hard to handle for the best of teams.