A good full-back. A mysterious enigma that seems to evade the lush, green turf of Anfield. The full-back slot has seen somewhat of a downturn in real talent at Anfield since the days of John-Arne Riise and Steve Finnan – one eye-catchingly powerful and the other getting the job done, unspectacularly but fantastically. Liverpool have tried to fix the left-back slot this year with attempts to sign Alberto Moreno from Sevilla but what of the young talent that already exists at the club? Jack Robinson is fresh from his loan spell at Blackpool and, on the right, Andre Wisdom has returned from his loan spell with Derby, only to be re-loaned back to West Brom in the Premier League. It is these two players that this article will be based on. Both are young, both are hungry and both could make it in the Premier League – but with which club? Liverpool could badly do with a youngster bursting through in these troublesome full-back positions and these two represent a good chance of success. Whilst Wisdom has already confirmed his loan move to West Brom, Robinson has impressed in training during Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the US and Rodgers has stated that the young Englishman will get his chance if he works hard and learns from his coaches. So, with both playing in the Championship last year, let’s compare what the two did last term and see what we can learn from their stats.
Duels and Concentration
From their time in the Championship last season, we can see that both players excel in the air with both registering 57.14% when it comes to successful aerial duels. This is a good start for both players as it shows they are both brave and competent in the air, especially because the Championship is a very tough league physically. However, consistency is key and Wisdom has this across the board when all his duels are put together. The new West Brom loanee remains above 57% for his total duels won percentage, whereas Robinson drops off slightly to 52.21%, which suggests that Wisdom is tougher and more controlled in the tackle.
Robinson does fight back though with his intelligence away from the duels. His reading of the game appears to be very strong with an average of over two interceptions per 90 minutes played. This may suggest that Blackpool came under more defensive pressure than Derby County did but nevertheless this figure is impressive. This is something that Brendan Rodgers would find useful as interceptions can be used to launch quick counter-attacks, rather than simply waiting for the opposition to hand you the ball with a shot at goal or loose pass which flies out of play.
Both the young full-backs excel with their concentration too. Both have exceptionally low defensive errors per 90 stats, with Wisdom making zero defensive errors in 37 league appearances. Robinson made just the one defensive error but it didn’t lead to a goal being conceded by Blackpool.
Blocks, Fouls and Clearances – The Skrtel Stuff
Moving on to what I like to call “the Skrtel stuff”. You know, fouling, blocking, clearing – basically inflicting and taking pain. Last season, Robinson committed an average of 0.96 fouls per 90 minutes played compared to Wisdom’s 0.57. In this regard, Wisdom is doing much better than Robinson as he only just commits a foul every 180 minutes, compared to Robinson being almost guaranteed to commit a foul at some stage of every game. Although Wisdom’s figure is impressive, it must be pointed out that he spent his season at a much stronger team who eventually reached the Championship Playoff Final – a team that values possession and high pressing. This means he is far less likely to commit a foul as Derby had the ball a lot more than Blackpool – if you have the ball, your opposition cannot attack.
Wisdom’s impressive figures continue with the right-back blocking more shots than Robinson per 90 minutes played. Wisdom blocked an average of 0.46 shots per 90 compared to Robinson’s 0.35 – these figures are both low but this is because they are playing as full-backs – whereas centre-backs would have much higher figures here. However, the higher figure for Wisdom shows he may have better positioning than Robinson when it comes to closing down shots and crosses.
Both players demonstrate the ability to be in the right place at the right time with Robinson completing 5.27 clearances on average, whilst Wisdom also posts an impressive 3.45. This figure once again shows the trend that Blackpool came under more fire than Derby – something to always keep in mind. This may explain why Robinson’s average is so much higher.
Chances and Passing
Something Brendan Rodgers demands of his full-backs is the ability to hold the width and stretch the game. Rodgers also demands that his full-backs push on when Liverpool have the ball, almost acting as auxiliary wingers, leaving just the two split centre-backs and Steven Gerrard left to defend. So with offensive capability something every Rodgers full-back has to offer, we’ll look at how these two players operate in the final third.
Out of the two, Robinson is the one who produced the most chances per 90 minutes with the young left-back creating 0.77 to Wisdom’s 0.57. This is something that Rodgers will find especially useful when it comes to breaking down stubborn defences, such as the Chelsea rearguard who stifled Liverpool at Anfield last term. If Rodgers can coach Robinson into getting behind Premier League defences on a consistent basis then he could save himself quite a bit of money – even if it’s just cancelling the purchase of a new reserve left-back, such as Ryan Bertrand. Keeping in line with the figures we just saw, Robinson also has the beating of Wisdom when it comes to key passes per 90 minutes played – Robinson beats Wisdom 0.74 to 0.49. These two figures suggest that Robinson is much more offensively-minded than Wisdom.
However, keeping in line with the confusion of stats is the fact that Wisdom has more assists per 90 minutes played than Robinson – with the former Derby man registering 0.08 assists per 90 compared to Robinson’s 0.03. Now, this isn’t that confusing because assists aren’t as important as chances and clear-cut chances created. This is because Robinson may have simply had weaker strikers who fluffed the chances the left-back was presenting them. It could also mean that whilst Robinson gets into attacking positions more frequently than Wisdom, his pass selection may be slightly worse and of a lower quality. Either of those theories could work, and we’ll certainly see this season with both potentially playing in the Premier League. For the record, those figures translate to Wisdom registering three assists to Robinson’s one.
Mentality is something Rodgers speaks of often when conducting his press conferences and interviews. His love for psychology is something that many believe to be his strongest resource – he’s a clever man. A strong mentality is something that Rodgers needs from his players. They need composure, bravery, the will to work hard and with controlled aggression. Controlled aggression being the key word at the end of that sentence. Robinsons got himself sent off twice last season and booked six times compared to Wisdom’s paltry three yellow cards. Robinson would have to curb that temperament if he wants to stay with Liverpool, just as Steven Gerrard had to do at the beginning of his Liverpool career following a flurry of high profile red cards.
However, Robinson does have positive side to his mentality. He does seem to be brave on the ball and he possesses a willingness to try the harder pass to reap the most reward. Statistically, Robinson has an average pass length of 24 metres compared to Wisdom’s 17.7. Some may think this shows recklessness but supporters who have watched Wisdom know that the young right-back often plays it safe by passing to his nearest centre-back or central midfield player. If Rodgers can further coach this bravery by fine tuning Robinson’s passing as he did with Jon Flanagan then Liverpool could well find a use for Jack Robinson yet.
Can Either Make It At Liverpool?
The simple answer is: who knows? Both players have demonstrated a very similar level of skill across this comparison and both impressed to varying degrees last season, whilst Robinson continues to impress Rodgers and his coaching team over in the US. It is of this scribbler’s opinion that Robinson could certainly do the job of a back-up left-back – at least as good a job as Ryan Bertrand, a player who has been unpopularly linked with a move to Liverpool for at least £7m. Andre Wisdom, on the other hand, is certainly more of a prospect than Martin Kelly whose glass body has seen him held back over the last few years. Only time will tell, hopefully both these players could save Liverpool some money by progressing into the players we all want them to be.
Stats via Squawka.com