Continuing our Squad analysis, I’m going to look at our Wingbacks in this post. Due to our play style, our Wingbacks do a lot of work up and down each flank, and contribute a lot to our play in general. As such, I usually look for creative output from them, as well as a willingness to put a shift in. It’s one of the positions where we’re blessed with a lot of talent, and as with all positions, I’ve tried to keep a minimum of two players, if not three where we have exceptional youth talent.
#66. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Despite his attributes not being a shining example of a model wingback, Club captain Trent Alexander-Arnold featured 33 times last season in all competitions, chipping in with 6 goals (4 from the penalty spot), 4 assists, and reinforcing his defensive credentials by averaging 4.46 tackles per game and turning in an average rating of 7.34. Trent’s pace and stamina really reinforce his dynamism, and while there’s obviously still work to be done, he’s an excellent contributor to the squad, and I think he could go on to be an all-time great, especially given he’s still only 20.
Last Season: P: 33 | G: 6 | A: 4 | Avg: 7.34
#25. Pol Lirola
Alexander-Arnold’s companion on the right flank is former Juventus wingback Pol Lirola. Another young talent, Lirola spent last season on loan with us, and his pace and ability in the air brought a different proposition on the right flank, as he tends to take his man on more, rather than looking for the early cross. He’s also solid defensively, averaging 5.55 tackles per game last year. Like Trent, Lirola has a high ceiling, and after putting pen to paper on a 5 year deal in summer, I believe he could go on to have a very bright future with us.
Last Season: P: 20 | G: 3 | A: 4 | Avg: 7.57
#26. Andrew Robertson
Now hitting his peak years, Robertson has gone from playing second-fiddle to Alberto Moreno, and looking like he was on his way out of the club, to being our first-choice Wingback on the left side of defence in just 2 seasons. In his first season, he featured just 9 times in all competitions and averaged just a 6.88, as he struggled to break into the first team. Last year though, that all changed. Alberto Moreno left for Monaco, and despite promising signs from Rico Henry, Robertson stepped up, playing 28 games, scoring 4 times and laying on 7 goals for his team-mates. His prowess is not just attacking; Robertson excels in the tackle, and averaged 6.08 tackles per game last season. The Scot is unpredictable and willing to fight for the shirt, and recently committed his long-term future to the club, signing a 3-year deal.
Last Season: P: 28 | G: 4 | A: 7 | Avg: 7.56
#35. Gian-Luca Itter
Despite having been set back by a recent injury, Gian-Luca Itter has come on in leaps and bounds since his £5.5m move from Woflsburg 3 years ago. He featured just once for the senior team the season he moved, but after Moreno’s departure, he became the go-to backup for Andrew Robertson, Starting 12 games last season, and laying on 4 goals for his team-mates. Powerful in the tackle, and with pace too burn, Itter averaged 5.95 tackles per game last year, with an average rating of 7.48, and if he continues to develop at this rate, Andrew Robertson may well have a fight on his hand to keep hold of his starting spot.
#30. Luke Shaw
Brought in on a free transfer after being released by Manchester United, Luke Shaw performs two functions in our squad: He brings a level of maturity to a sometimes-young backline, and also helps our domestic player ratio, with Brexit rules demanding 8 Homegrown players be registered in the squad. Shaw played 3 games for Manchester United in the 2017/18 season, before being loaned out to West Brom for the remainder of that season. He spent last season on loan at Eibar, and turned in a series of good performances in La Liga as a starting full-back. Shaw’s work rate and ability in the tackle are what stood out for me, as well as his willingness to run at defenders. I’m hoping that he can kick-start his career with us, and he will be used in rotation with Robertson and Itter, to ensure enough rest, and make sure Itter doesn’t burn out this season.
Last Season (Eibar): P: 43 | G: 1 | A: 4 | Avg: 6.99
With 5 Wingbacks across two positions, I think we’ve got plenty of depth, and some real quality down the flanks, and i’ll be keeping a close eye on the performances of Itter and Shaw in particular, with them both looking to impress this season to displace Andrew Robertson, if such a thing is even possible!