These are the players who have been tasked by Liverpool to handle the left back position since the 2008-2009 season.
For some, this may make grim reading, especially as these footballers were all summoned to rule the blades of grass where John-Arne Riise was once king: a man who reigned at Anfield admirably from 2001-2008.
That there have been so many false coronations, it is with marked understatement that the left back situation is described as ‘problematic’. The scroll of dishonour above is disappointing mostly due to the name that appears last, Glen Johnson. Glen Johnson is a wonderful footballer; he is everything you want in the modern day full back. Strong in the air, great at reading the game, brilliant on the ball and he has pace and power to burn. The sad thing for Liverpool is that Johnson is both Liverpool’s best right back and their best left back.
Due to failure after failure of this motley cast, Johnson has been forced into the breach as an interim occupant of the throne, waiting for a suitable Prince to stake his claim. The undeniable plus to this was that Martin Kelly was afforded a place a right back to maintain his advancement towards the first team leader we know he can be in the future.
But with the bitter news that Kelly is out for the foreseeable future, the left back conundrum presents itself once more. This should give rise to a battle between hungry players to forcibly take control and claim what is rightfully theirs. Instead of this glorious power struggle, we are left with a patchwork of options and it is here where Enrique must pick up his flagging Liverpool story. It seems beyond belief that a man who started out so well in his opening few games in a red shirt has spent the start of this season vying with Stewart Downing for the position of substitute left back!
But that is the truth. That is Enrique’s current rank in the Liverpool squad and he must catapult his displays to the highest level if he wants to hold onto his Liverpool career.
Enrique is a gifted footballer, he has pace, his ability to retain possession is unlike any other full back, sometimes the ball seems to be super glued to his feet, and his passing range is good. But after his majestic performances in his first 15 games, his outings have slipped from anonymous to insipid.
Enrique’s career at Liverpool is not yet written off but it feels like it is entering its last winter. If his endeavours remain at his most recent level he will be one of the players to be deposed in the close season.
This is the challenge and the beauty of playing for Liverpool. To succeed, the minimum standard to be brought onto the pitch is high. Average is unacceptable, good is merely passable. And it is in this realm that players must place themselves. Enrique will have noticed in his time at LFC that each and every footballer is not just judged by the manager, the fans run the rule over them and the media dissect and analyse them. If you don’t wear the crown well, you’ll be swiftly off to the guillotine.
To survive in this kingdom it necessitates a level of confidence and determination beyond that of a standard professional. Yes, the club is at its lowest ebb for years but if anything, this means that passengers are even less welcome and scrutiny levels are even higher than before. The expected standard remains as high as ever, it’s just that the gap is larger than it was previously. Rodgers’ mandate is to regain that standard and he has demonstrated that he is prepared to make big calls. Under this directive, all challengers will be permitted to rise or fall and for Enrique he must find the Midas touch quickly if he is not to be overthrown.
If he has the strength of character he can be Liverpool’s first choice full back for the next 5 years at least. However, it is not just a temporary struggle; he will have to wage war on all players gunning for his position. The left back spot is open and if he does not take charge a new face will be tasked with solving the problem, whether it be a £20m winger, an academy graduate [Editor: Jack Robinson?] or a new signing.
Enrique has the ability but if he doesn’t want Johnson’s and a litany of other names after his in the list mentioned at the start of this piece then he must seize his turf. The players in the current set up who have remained at Anfield through the years have done just that, they have seen the competition and have stared them back down. Enrique must recognise that at Liverpool it is rule or be ruled.
Enrique can decide when his time will come to abdicate to a new young and talented full back but only if he can avoid a coup d’état before then.