WELCOME to my latest blog reviewing the seasons of our squad, more recently focusing on the player on the shortlist for Player of the Year in the live4liverpool.com polls. Next up is our brand new left back Jose Enrique Sanchez.
As I have discussed in previous blogs (please check links below), the modern game demands more and more from the fullbacks, and arguably it is the position that has changed the most to adapt to rigours of the game nowadays.
Fullbacks are often seen as offensive options first and foremost, with defensive midfielders in the mould of Mascherano able to cover their surges. Dani Alves is a prime example of a modern day fullback who will spend his game up and down the touchline like wingers of old. Classic wingers in the mould of Steve Heighway are unfortunately more and more being sidelined in favour of a stocked up central midfield, or themselves converted to more central positions with Cristiano Ronaldo a prime example (but to be fair that has worked out quite well for the lad!), and it is the role of the fullback to cover these duties.
The love of the 4-2-3-1 formation has seen to the slow death of classic wing-play as it is seen that a game is won and lost in the middle of the field. It is a sad fact for me as my fondest memories growing up were of John Barnes flying down the wing, dribbling past players, whipping crosses in…..simple things bring so much pleasure.
Now at Liverpool in recent years we have been quite blessed with right-backs from Rob Jones, through to Steve Finnan and now we find ourselves with Johnson, Kelly and Flanagan. Personally I think Kelly is a wonderful player, but that is another chat for another time. But it has been the other side of the pitch that has seen us struggle. I was a big fan of John-Arne Riise (just how did he score that goal?) and was sad to see him leave. We were teased with Fabio Aurelio, but his body was simply against him all the time, even a youngster like Insua struggled and the less said about Konchesky the better to be honest (I hope his Mum isn’t reading this).
I like the look of Robinson as a player (not many people can claim to have outpaced Walcott!) but he isn’t ready for the demands of a Liverpool left-back week in and week out in the league. Unfortunately the world is not exactly blessed with high quality left backs with many teams converting players to play there, we have done it with Agger and Arbeloa for instance, but in Jose Enrique I truly believe we have signed one of the best. In fact he started the season on absolute fire and looked an absolute snip at £7 million.
He is strong going forward, with good control, decent pace and a trick or two up his sleeve and certainly promised to provide a strong left-hand side for us with Downing. The fact that this hasn’t materialised as yet is more down to Downing than the Spaniard in my eyes. Yet in the era of the attacking fullback it has been Jose Enrique’s defensive abilities that have most impressed me. He is strong, confident and has all the ability not to panic under pressure and have confidence in his own ability to actually do something with the ball than simply launch it. This attribute is highly commendable and sits perfectly within the Liverpool philosophy.
One factor that is often forgotten when reviewing signings at Liverpool is the sheer size of the club, the global impact the club has, the history, the expectancy and so on, all things that are replicated in part by a small number of clubs globally and anyone that tries to argue against this or doesn’t believe because we haven’t qualified for the Champions League for a couple of years is deluded. Arsenal for example lost Fabregas and Nasri despite being in the Champions League consistently; we signed Suarez despite no Champions League to offer immediately. Therefore it will take new signings time to settle and adapt on the most part whereas some will settle from the go – Suarez and Torres spring to mind straight away – and it is these players that catch the eye and you know have something special to offer.
By the fact that Jose Enrique was able to come into the squad and settle straightaway is testament to his ability and his character. I do however, feel that the best is still to come from him though, as to fully utilise his offensive abilities there needs to be that bond with the player in front of him, whether it be Downing or somebody else. I hate to say it, but Neville and Beckham had such an understanding which led to United and England having a devastating right-hand side for several years. To have such an understanding will free Jose Enrique more, allowing him to bomb on, commit players and begin to deliver those crosses that Carroll found so appetising at Newcastle.
I believe that Jose Enrique was indeed money well spent and in the coming years will prove to be an absolute snip. As I have discussed he clearly has the ability and temperament to perform in a red shirt, and with such top quality right-backs in Johnson and Kelly, brings balance to the team. It is hugely important to have players playing in their natural positions but often so hard to find, but in Jose Enrique I feel we have a gem that will be solid for us and truly shine.
Please come seek me out on twitter, you can find me @timdibs
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