Who To Pick In FPL? Robertson vs Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson were the only two defenders to be handed a £7.0m price tag in FPL this season. A large number of managers favour Andrew Robertson over his colleague on the basis that he played more minutes last season.

But is he really the better option? Let’s take a look.

Appearences In 2018/19

Stats Arnold Robertson
Mins 2460 3216
Starts 27 36
Subbed On 2 0
Subbed Off 7 3

Robertson played a total of 3216 minutes last season, starting in 36 of Liverpool’s 38 matches. Not bad at all. He was only subbed off on three occasions, all of which came after the 80th minute. So far, so tasty.

Why did he miss those 2 fixtures?

Well, in Gameweek 10 he was handed a rest against Cardiff, having played three days previously against Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League. If you’re going to be rested against anyone, Cardiff feels like a relatively safe bet.

He was rested once again in Gameweek 15, following a Merseyside derby 3 days previous and in preparation for a busy December fixture list.

[Red Star 24th Oct – Cardiff 27th Oct
Everton 2nd Dec – Burnley 5th Dec]

In comparison, Trent Alexander Arnold played a total of 2460 minutes last season – over 750 minutes less than Robertson. He started 27 matches and was subbed off on seven occasions, six of which came after the 85th minute and once before the 60 minute cut off mark. That was probably the only gameweek that I owned him, so apologies for that.


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Out of favour or out of action?

Whilst it sounds obvious, it’s very important to highlight the difference between “not being nailed on” and being injured.

Looking at Alexander-Arnold’s absences we can see that actually, he missed a total of 8 games due to injury. Only 2 games were missed for rest and 1 because of Klopp’s slightly annoying but probably genius tactical preferences.

GW vs. Reason Replacement
8* MCI Tactical Rotation J. Gomez
9* HUD Rested J. Gomez
15** BUR Rested J. Gomez (inj)
16* BOU Injury J. Milner
17 MUN Injury N. Clyne
18 WOL Injury J. Milner
23 CPL Injury J. Milner
24 LEI Injury J. Henderson
25 WHU Injury J. Milner
26** BOU Injury J. Milner
27* MUN Injury J. Milner

* On the bench
** Subbed on

Firstly, he was an unused substitute in Gameweek 8. Liverpool faced Man City and Jurgen Klopp favoured Joe Gomez as a better tactical fit. He then warmed the bench again in GW9, this time in preparation for their Champions League group match against Red Star Belgrade.

“Joe can play there and with respect deserved to play. I think about the players I line-up first not what it would mean for Trent. It was nothing. He came back in a good shape and a good mood.”

– Jurgen Klopp
On J. Gomez starting vs MCI

Arnold was sidelined for three matches between Gameweek 16 and 18, missing fixtures against BOU/MUN/WOL.

Between Gameweek 23 and 27, the same injury would keep Arnold sidelined for a further 5 matches. It’s important to note he was back on the bench for GW26, featuring for 13′ minutes vs BOU. Klopp then chose not to rush him back in vs United in GW27, but he had seemingly returned to full fitness by this point.

So let’s break it down. Ultimately, Trent and Robertson missed exactly the same number of games due to rest. In that sense, they’re both as nailed as each other.

Key FPL Statistics (Per 90)

Stats (Per 90) Arnold Robertson
Points 6.77 5.96
Assists 0.48 0.34
Goals 0.04 0.00
Bonus 0.91 0.81
BPS Score 27.37 25.44

If both players are fit and playing 90 minutes, then according to last season’s data, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the better option.

He returned 0.81 more points per 90, collecting more assists and a goal along the way. He also benefited more from the FPL bonus system, albeit narrowly.

Key Underlying Statistics (Per 90)

Stats (Per 90) Arnold Robertson
Crosses 7.35 3.78
Suc. Crosses 2.12 0.58
Chances Created 1.76 1.40
Shots 1.06 0.45
Shots on Target 0.33 0.14

As far as the underlying statistics are concerned, Alexander-Arnold trumps Robertson in almost every single metric. Most notably, he overshadows Robertson on successful crosses. 29% of Trent’s crosses reached their intended destination, compared to Robertson’s measly 16%.

This prowess at crossing is reflected in his higher number of chances created too.

Alexander-Arnold also averaged more than double the shots on target per 90 than Robertson, though neither were exactly lethal in front of goal. 1 goal between them last season should tell you everything you need to know in that department. Then again, it’s Alexander-Arnold who shows more promising signs of building on that tally.

Expected Statistics (Per 90)

Stats (Per 90) Arnold Robertson
xG 0.06 0.02
xG Open Play 0.03 0.02
xG Set Play 0.03 0.00

A closer look at the expected goals stats from last season highlights that whilst they had a similar xG output from open play, it’s Alexander-Arnold’s involvement in direct-freekicks that bolsters his expected goals to almost twice that of Robertsons.

Stats (Per 90) Arnold Robertson
xA 0.24 0.18
xA Open Play 0.17 0.17
xA Set Play 0.07 0.00

Assist Map Comparison 2018/19

The same can also be said for expected assists, with an identical output from open play but a total again bolstered by involvement in set-pieces (predominantly corners).

assist comparison fpl
An assist comparison of Alexander-Arnold (white dot) and Robertson (black dot).

In other words, Alexander-Arnold’s output could be seen as the equivalent to Robertson’s but with the additional advantage of set pieces.

As you can see by the assist comparison above, their output from open play is very similar but Trent Alexander-Arnold has a wider variety.

Andy Robertson favours early crosses or cut-backs, whilst Alexander-Arnold profited from two through-balls made from inside his own half. He also took 74 corners last season, which accounted for 3 of his 13 assists. It also earned Liverpool a spot in the Champions League final, lest we forget.

Shots on Target Map Comparison 2018/19

Shots on target comparison fpl
A shots on target map that compares Alexander-Arnold (white dot) and Robertson (black dot).

A look at their shots on target map paints a similar picture. Whilst both have a mixture of shots from cut-ins, Alexander-Arnold has the added capability of taking direct free-kicks, as the xG statistics previously indicated.

As always when working with statistics, and fantasy football in general, there are certain variables that aren’t considered. Whilst converting statistics to a per 90 metric allows us to compare two players that have played a different number of minutes, it doesn’t compensate for unequal sample sizes.

Spikes in form are also ignored when looking at seasonal averages. Trent Alexander-Arnold, for example, picked up 6 of his assists in the final 6 game weeks, almost equalling his 7 assists in all 23 appearances in the whole of the season prior to that. His expected assists, however, remained at a constant throughout both periods.

Naturally, we reckon you should be picking up both. If your budget doesn’t allow that though, it looks like Trent Alexander-Arnold is the better pick. I bet he’s made up about it.

(Oh, and if your budget does allow you to buy both of them, do drop me a line and let me know how you’ve managed it.)

Jamie Reeves

BEST FPL FINISH: 8,872 (17/18)

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