OVER the past few seasons, a common question that has been asked amongst Reds all over the world has been ‘Why are we playing our players out of position’? This is a conundrum that has been left unsolved since Gerard Houllier became fond of playing Emile Heskey at right-back all those years ago. And right now, we find ourselves asking ‘why is Jordan Henderson playing on the right?’ and ‘Why is Agger being shunted out to left back’? Is this a tactical issue?
And more importantly, is it impeding the development of one of the brightest talents in the country?
Personally, I think it is a tactical issue. But, I also think Kenny is trying to ease Henderson into the team. When Henderson was playing for Sunderland, the pressure wasn’t as intense as the pressure he is feeling now. Anfield is a tough place to play, especially when the team is not playing well. As the season has gone on, the league form shown by the team has gotten progressively worse which has made the pressure on the midfielders to score goals increase.
Someone like Henderson would be better if he was playing second fiddle to a much superior and senior midfielder. Someone like Raul Meireles springs to mind. At the time it seemed like a good move. A player that didn’t want to be here, so we sold him. We have missed his creativity and guile. Henderson doesn’t seem to have the confidence to emulate what Raul gave us in the latter part of last season.
Another player in recent weeks who has been played as a square peg in a round hole has been Daniel Agger. Agger, who has made his name as a marauding centre-half, has been shunted out to left-back to accommodate the ageing Jamie Carragher in the side. This has also had something to do with the sudden loss in form of Josè Enrique. While the Danish international has been okay in his new position, it has really upset the balance and calmness that was present in the back four in the run up to the League Cup final.
Unfortunately, in that game, Agger suffered two broken ribs in the showpiece event which led to Carra coming back into the side. And whilst in previous years this would have been a good thing, it meant that Martin Skrtel had to be moved out of his comfort zone to the left centre-back position. When this was used earlier on in the season after Agger suffered the same fate in the 4-0 defeat at Spurs, it proved to be costly as goals seemed to be going in left, right and centre. And when Sebastien Coates came into the side and slotted in perfectly in the left centre-back position, he looked much more composed.
In my opinion, he hasn’t been given enough time to settle on the left and he has been moved over to the right too much to accommodate Craig Bellamy. It should be either one or the other in the team and he and Enrique haven’t been given time to get into a groove on that side of the pitch. Obviously, his poor run of form at the start of the new year will have contributed that, but nonetheless, I think he have missed a trick and it hasn’t allowed Downing to create more crosses with his natural foot.
Over the remaining games and well into next season, I think we should try and play more players in their natural positions to see if they flourish. It seems a bit of an overdrawn cliché. But, when other things haven’t worked, it seems to be the basic turning point. When played in his natural position, Jordan Henderson has shown glimpses of why Dalglish and Comolli thought he’d be a good buy. In short, no more square pegs in round holes please Kenny!
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