Nicknamed el Toro (the bull) due to his speed and physical prowess, he certainly demonstrated those traits in the first part of last season.
His talent, work rate and attacking threat provided from fullback gave the Reds an attacking drive helping to create several of the 47 goals the team scored last year.
His form was excellent in the first 6 months and it was thought that José would form a partnership with Stewart Downing on the left; however this failed to materialize.
Since John-Arne Riise left Liverpool we’ve had numerous left backs that haven’t lived up to the expectations of wearing the Red shirt. Konchesky and Dossena are two which come to mind. When Enrique signed he was meant to be the long awaited replacement for Riise.
October 2011 saw José voted the best summer signing with 74.5% of the vote keeping Bellamy and Adam at bay. Even ESPN.com selected our number 3 for the Premier League best 11 in the first part of the league campaign.
At first it seemed as though José was the answer to our prayers as him and Craig Bellamy were the only signings that arrived in the summer of 2011 that could hold their heads up high by the time 2012 came round. However, for no apparent reason José began to have a dip in form – many Reds point to the victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup as the start of it. His individual error gave Park Ji Sung the ample opportunity to score their equalizer.
By the end of the campaign he was in and out the side due to injury and failing to make team selection. He wasn’t even in the starting XI for the FA Cup semi-final against Everton but was selected for the final against Chelsea. His confidence at an all -time low, he was responsible for Ramires’ opening goal at Wembley.
The summer gave José time to refocus and try and get himself back to his best. Unfortunately under Rodgers, a troublesome knee injury halted his progress along with Brendan choosing fellow fullbacks Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly.
But every cloud has a silver lining. An injury to Johnson allowed José to regain a starting place in the team; something which he hasn’t relinquished since. He is definitely up for the fight.
Since playing at Goodison at the end of October ,Enrique has continually proved his status as something of an enigma.
He demonstrated his attacking capabilities in the Merseyside Derby by setting up Luis’ first goal (the deflected effort off Leighton Baines). However his decision making at times was evident as his poor timing allowed Naismith to score the blue noses’ second goal. He should have just cleared the ball for a corner.
His critics have had a field day making a mockery of his defensive qualities – but to give him his due, he setup Luis again for our equalizer against Newcastle. The goal was a perfect contrast of simplicity and extreme difficulty. After possession was won back by Liverpool, José Enrique played a 60 metre pass forward. As we all know, our magical Uruguayan did the rest.
José needs to improve on certain areas of his game: timing, his tracking back needs to be sharper at times and he needs to be stronger when coming up against quicker opposition.
Against Chelsea he gave a gutsy performance and was rewarded with being named Man of the Match. When Rodgers set out his team in the 3-5-2 formation Cesar Azpilicueta cancelled out José’s attacking threat. Enrique certainly kept Mata and Oscar quiet by shielding them with his immense frame. This was definitely his most assured performance defensively which surprised the fans and his manager.
Chelsea’s attack from the right hand side seemed absent as he tracked down Oscar leading to the Brazilian being the least effective of Chelsea’s midfield. When Brendan changed the formation to 4-2-3-1 José was switched to the left wing while Glen was moved to left back. This freed José (took the shackles off in a way) from his defensive duties while giving him the chance to roam around the pitch and did so with great ease. José Enrique is known for his bombarding runs forward, with excellent dribbling attributes enabling him to get into dangerous positions further up the pitch.
It was no different at the ‘Bridge; we were able to penetrate the defence of Chelsea and he proved to be one of better attacking outlets – and maybe should of scored the opportunity at the end of the match to win the game.
The question is should José play as a winger?
He loves going forward and does a better job than some of our midfielders at present – a certain Stewart Downing springs to mind. Playing as a winger will help him shield the weaker aspects of his game – losing possession and defensive mistakes. As a defender, when such mistakes happen, as they are bound to, it offers the opposing team the opportunity to attack and make Enrique pay.
If such mistakes do arise – which they can – there are players behind him and damage control is an easier job. This also keeps the media off his back.
When Liverpool beat BSC Young Boys 5-3 in the opening Europa League fixture in September, Enrique was directly responsible for two of the three goals, only to be spared due to Jonjo Shelvey’s two goals.
It’s his ability to pick out a pass that is exemplary, averaging 1.5 key passes per game in the Premier League, a tally bettered only by Steven Gerrard, Suarez and Sterling. Playing in a left-wing role would enable Enrique to pick out passes with ease, and could set up more chances than he currently does for the likes of Suarez and Sterling.
The emerging Andre Wisdom could play on the right, Glen on the left and Enrique can play on the left-wing. On paper it does sound ideal and it is something that Rodgers could consider. He’s a big man, can run surprisingly fast, and is excellent with the ball at his feet. He also doesn’t have to worry about winning aerial battles too much in a wide role.
At £7 million he has proven to be a solid purchase, despite the loss of form last season. He is still only 26 years old, and can be a fundamental part of Liverpool for quite some time.
In Brendan Rodgers’ post match interview following the 3-0 success over Wigan on Saturday, the manager was asked about the success of José Enrique playing in a more advanced role. Rodgers said that we had witnessed “the reincarnation of José Enrique”.
He has provided an assist, scored his first Liverpool goal and created numerous chances from such a position. He didn’t let his manager or the supporters down, as his constant running and pressure was very well received by the Anfield faithful. He was getting into the box during attacks, something which has been a problem for us this season, and cutting inside with the ball in order to carve open the Wigan defence.
Glen Johnson also formed a very cohesive partnership with him down the left. He cut inside before playing an inch perfect pass to put Suarez one-on-one, and the Uruguayan supplied an excellent finish. Enrique seems to be on the same wavelength as el Pistolero. Fittingly, Enrique then got a goal of his own, with his previously unseen predatory instincts putting himself in the right place at the right time to tap in Raheem Sterling’s parried strike. He is already showing the signs of a very adept winger.
José’s long term future at Liverpool rests with him being open to change and adapting his game. He needs to make the most of his strengths rather than reinventing himself.
There is room for improvement and José is certainly taking his chance when called upon.
Others currently in the shade at Anfield may want to take a left out of his book.
Hopefully now Enrique will go from strength to strength and be the player we all know he can be.
Follow me on Twitter @MRSSG
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