Liverpool must recapture their ruthless form of last season and pick up more points away from home if they are to stay on course to retain the Premier League title, says Andy Robertson.
Only goal difference separates the league leaders from second-placed Manchester United, who are on a 10-match unbeaten run, winning eight of those to take their total to 33 points after 16 games this season.
Liverpool have won just one of their last seven away matches, with bottom-half teams West Brom, Fulham, Brighton – and most recently Newcastle – all earning draws against the Premier League champions in recent weeks.
“Over the last two years or even three years – and no disrespect to those clubs – but last season we would have won those games,” Robertson said ahead of the Monday Night Football trip to Southampton.
“And if you add two points to every one of those games then the league table is looking a lot different and we’re sitting pretty happy, but you know, this season is going to be unique. I think there are seven or eight teams – once the games in hand have been played that are within three points of us at the top, and it’s going to be a unique season as I said.
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“I think I can comfortably say it’s not going to be 97 or 98 points that is going to win the league this season, it’s probably going to be in the 80s because it is that tight and everyone is taking points off each other. We need to stay in the race, and that’s what we have done so far.
“Of course, the last two games have been disappointing, especially Newcastle [which ended 0-0]. We could have probably played all night the amount of chances we had, I think [Newcastle goalkeeper] Karl Darlow would have kept every one of them out the way he has playing. You sometimes get games like that. Thankfully, we haven’t had too many like that in the last couple of years, but we had it the other night.
“It’s just now we need to kick on in 2021. We need to go on a run of games where we win. We of course need to pick up more away points and keep picking up maximum points at home, and let’s see where we end up. But it’s a unique season. Hopefully we end up on top.”
‘I feel a bit guilty – 2020 has been tough for everyone’
Robertson is also keen to see a return to some sort of normality in 2021 after a year of mixed emotions for the full-back.
The Scotsman captained his country to qualification for next summer’s European Championships – their first major tournament appearance since the France 1998 World Cup – and also helped Liverpool end their quest for a first Premier League title.
Despite his epic triumphs on the pitch in 2020, Robertson is acutely aware of the misery the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic has brought to so many people’s lives.
He said: “One of the main things [when you are looking back on last year] is you feel a bit guilty, because 2020 will always be a year that I look back on with happy memories and a smile on my face, because I ended two very long waits – for a major tournament for my country and with me being captain was unbelievable – and then to end the 30-year title wait for this club was so special for me.
“But also I got to spend time with my family, and I’ve got two young kids. During lockdown, I made sure that I made the most of that and everything that goes along with it.
“But then when you look at it, a lot of people have lost their lives, a lot of people have maybe lost their jobs and that’s where the guilt comes in, because this year has been tough for everyone. It’s definitely a year I look back on where I learned a lot, I gained a lot, but it’s also a year that our whole lives changed, and that’s something I will never forget.
“I just hope in 2021 we can get back to some sort of normality and we can get our normal lives back, because I think if people didn’t appreciate their lives before, they certainly do after this pandemic. I think everybody would love to just get back to normal now.”
Robertson is hungry for more silverware after Premier League, Club World Cup and Champions League successes in the last 18 months and says Liverpool can also look forward to welcoming back central defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez this year.
“For 2021 as a whole, I hope it ends in success,” he said.
“The last two years we have been lucky enough to get our hands on a trophy, and of course we want to strive for more.
“In the summer, I will have the privilege of leading my country out, the first time [any Scotland captain has done that in 23 years] so, in 2021 there is a lot to look forward to. We know the hard work and everything that needs to go to win any sort of trophy and we are determined to do so.
“Obviously we will get Virg back in 2021 at some point. I’m not sure that will be any time this season, but he will get back and it’s been great having him and Joe Gomez around the players and be able to see them and put a smile on their faces as well. Hopefully those boys and all of the injured boys are back on the pitch real soon”.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says Van Dijk is making progress in his recovery from a knee injury but admits the defender still has a “long way to go” in his rehabilitation.
The Netherlands international underwent surgery after sustaining ligament damage in the Merseyside derby in October but posted an update on social media last week showing him stepping up his recovery with a session on an exercise bike.
Klopp, who is also without defenders Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, is happy to see Van Dijk making progress but admitted the nature of the 29-year-old’s injury means he still has work to do in his recovery.
“Good, very good. I have no problem with talking about Virgil van Dijk. It’s very good but still a long way to go, that’s this kind of injury,” Klopp said.
“I’m happy when I see these videos, to be honest, because it just shows that he makes good progress. But it will still take a lot of time, that’s how it is. I would like to say something else but these are the facts, unfortunately.”