Fullback appreciation Pt. II – Where do LFC’s wide defenders rank among the world’s best?

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By Connor Varnish – @cvarn4

Part two of our two-part ‘Fullback Appreciation’ special. You can read part one here.

Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have catapulted themselves into the conversation of world’s best full-backs in the last 16 months or so.

The pair perhaps may even be the strongest full-back pairing not just in the Premier League, but the whole of Europe – and some would argue they’ve quietly been the best for close to a year now.

The Scotsman and Englishmen have 11 and nine assists respectively in all competitions so far this campaign and, while the combo certainly display a ruthless cutting edge from the more advanced wing-back position, the duo are just as stern in defence.

The pair have done more than their fair share in contributing to a league leading defence with 18 clean sheets domestically and an additional four in the Champions League.

The two have become a staple in Jurgen Klopp’s defence and undoubtedly will remain a fixture to this Liverpool side for many years to come should they remain at Anfield.

Robbo and Trent’s attacking prowess and heavy metal pressing mentality perhaps is the most glamorous part of both full-backs games, but what sets them apart from the typical modern day full-back is their defensive strengths – both pose no visible weaknesses when it comes to cutting out a pass, tracking runners, or even putting their bodies on the line when the opposition do manage to get a shot off. They can do it all.

It’s largely accepted among the majority of sensible supporters that Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are arguably the two best full-backs in the Premier League, but how do they stack up against Europe’s elite?

The likes of Bayern’s David Alaba and Barca’s Jordi Alba contest the Scotsman at the left back position, while players such as Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich and Real’s Dani Carvajal vie for the top spot in the right back role with Trent. You could argue for a few others, but I genuinely believe these are the cream of the crop when it comes to wide defenders.

Let’s take a look at Robertson’s season thus far compared to the others mentioned above: The Scot, of course, sits on 11 assists and 22 clean sheets in all comps while David Alaba has recorded two goals, two assists and 15 clean sheets – Jordi Alba meanwhile boasts 10 assists, two goals, and 19 clean sheets across all competitions.

Stats don’t tell the whole story, of course, as there are a multitude of external factors that affect statistical outputs, but it is still something very much worthwhile to consider when comparing players.

Robertson, though, is in some good company as he stacks up considerably against two of the best as he exceeds both in assists and clean sheets, but falls short in the goal tally. Could he be the world’s best left-back?

Trent also stacks up well against some of the best right backs in world football – the Scouser, as previously mentioned, has notched nine assists while contributing one goal as well as 21 clean sheets (he missed out on the 22nd clean sheet due to injury when the Reds faced Wolves in mid December.)

Joshua Kimmich has thus far tallied 11 assists, two goals and 19 clean sheets in all comps while the Spaniard Dani Carvajal has recorded a measly one goal, one assist, and 11 clean sheets in all comps – an off year from the Real Madrid man, but surely not helped by his team’s declining fortunes.

Again, stats don’t paint the whole picture, but Alexander-Arnold at just 20 years of age has played himself into the conversation of the world’s best right back – Kimmich slightly edges Trent, in my opinion, but in a few years time I wouldn’t be surprised if Trent overtook the 24-year-old Bayern product.

Trent and Robbo have formed quite the partnership at the full-back position – the stats show they’re both right up there with very best Europe has to offer. Even if one completely disregarded the stats and simply watched them in, say, five matches, they’d certainly be impressed with the tenacity and enthusiasm both display on a weekly basis on both ends of the pitch.

In other words, the Scotsman and Scouser pass the ‘eye’ test with flying colors.

Both certainly benefit from having Virgil van Dijk and Alisson alongside them too, as well as the embarrassment of riches Liverpool posses in attack – after all, you cannot record assists if there’s no one to score the goals – but the pair have both stepped up to the plate to be counted.

We’re not just looking at the most in-form wing backs in Europe, I’d argue we’re witnessing the best outside back partnership in the world. With Robertson turning 25 this past March, and Trent Alexander-Arnold still only 20, the Reds really could have something special on their hands for the foreseeable future.

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