Forget Salah & Mane: Liverpool’s full-backs are pivotal cogs in Klopp’s machine

It is hardly a hot take to say that Liverpool’s full-backs are arguably the best in the Premier League, and perhaps in Europe for that matter – that much is startlingly obvious.

Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have enjoyed exquisite campaigns so far and, regardless of how anyone else in the team plays, those two always seem to bring their A-game and display unerringly consistent performance levels.

It is obvious that they are excellent at what they do, but just how important are they to the Reds’ chances of success?

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Whilst the in-form Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah hog the headlines most weeks, Liverpool’s results are a lot worse when Alexander-Arnold isn’t involved in proceedings.

According to Soccerbase, the title challengers have drawn and lost the same numbers of games in 21 matches involving the Englishman as they have in seven without him, highlighting just how much his absence affects results. To put it another way, Liverpool have only won 50% of their fixtures when Alexander-Arnold has been absent this season, compared to 75% when he is in the side.

In the two games the England international missed between the end of January and the start of February against Leicester and West Ham, James Milner had to play at right-back seeing as Nathaniel Clyne had been loaned out to Bournemouth.

Those two games could yet have a major impact on the title race, as Liverpool recorded two disappointing 1-1 draws, throwing away four vital points in the process.

In Robertson’s case, his incredible fitness levels mean that he doesn’t miss many games – he has been absent for just two Premier League games, coming against Burnley and Cardiff. Liverpool got an easy six points from those affairs.

However, the captain of the Scottish national team has racked up 11 assists in all competitions this term. No full-back in Europe can boast a better return of assists other than Joshua Kimmich of Bayern Munich, who has 12 to his name, although it’s crucial to note that he has appeared in midfield 11 times.

Robertson’s tally of nine Premier League assists – his other two have come in the Champions League – is a Premier League club-record amount for Liverpool, and is also the fourth highest in the league behind Eden Hazard, Ryan Fraser and Christian Eriksen – he also has the same amount as Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane.

Robertson aside, no defender in the Premier League has recorded more assists than Alexander-Arnold’s six, whilst, as mentioned, Robertson is way out on his own with nine.

On days when Mane and Salah go missing, such as in the 2-1 win over Tottenham, it is telling that both full-backs were directly involved in the two goals as others struggled to impact the game.

Whilst the aforementioned attackers, who are both on 17 Premier League goals for the season – just two off front-runner Sergio Aguero – dominate the headlines and hoover up most of the plaudits, it is Jurgen Klopp’s two wide defenders who are picking up the pieces when the marquee names go missing.

Article title: Forget Salah & Mane: Liverpool’s full-backs are pivotal cogs in Klopp’s machine

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