MY appearances on the Anfield Wrap podcast have so far been met mostly with radio silence. I like to think I’ve been doing a solidly unobtrusive job, but it might just be that nobody’s much arsed about anything I say.
All that changed this week, when a comment I made prompted a deluge of at least two tweets questioning my judgement, sanity and manhood.
Taking a hospital pass from Neil Atkinson, I wandered down a blind alley in making some criticisms of Jose Enrique and didn’t quite find my way out.
Aside from the indignation in the room and the very real danger of me being on the receiving end of one of these, I got a fair bit of stick from Twitter followers and the alarming number of people in the real world who actually pay attention to all this.
That only intensified on Tuesday, when Jose capped a generally fantastic performance with a sumptuous drilled pass to Charlie Adam, allowing the Scotsman to create Liverpool’s third goal.
I was wrong, wrong, wrong, and Enrique had proved it in style.
Based on what I said and how poorly I expressed it, yes I was. Jose Enrique is a very, very good left-back. The best we’ve had for years – arguably going back as far as Steve Staunton.
His defensive positioning often looks flawless, he gets forward enthusiastically and generally looks strong, quick, committed and skilful.
So what’s the problem? Well, firstly there’s not much of one, at least not right now. But allow me to indulge in a slightly long-winded analogy.
When I was about 14 I got a PC, a Pentium 133 with 16mb of memory and a massive, massive 1gb hard drive.
I loved that computer. It played Championship Manager 97/98 like a dream. It even pumped music off CD through the speakers while I was guiding Grimsby to European glory, pausing occasionally to scamper about with a nailgun in impossibly futuristic 3D on Quake.
Best of all it gave me access, via a cranky and reluctant dial-up internet connection, to a raft of low-quality pixellated videos of nude women going quite a bit further than Shannon Tweed tended to on Channel Five.
At the time it was impossible to imagine my PC being anything other than great. Then along came Championship Manager 3, Quake 2 and a range of lengthier, more richly detailed lady videos.
All three basically took one look at the beige box on my desk and swept off with a haughty look of disdain.
At first I tried to soldier on, waiting through hours of frustration between matches, space station shootouts and, erm, other activities.
Eventually, after much soul-searching I was forced to upgrade and leave my battered old machine behind.
This, as I so ineloquently tried to express on the podcast, is my worry with Enrique – that while he’s comfortably above the average standard of players at maybe 14 or 15 clubs in the Premier League, I’m not wholly convinced by him when we face the other four or five.
This isn’t jumping on him after one bad game or one high-profile mistake, although the poor decision he made in the build-up to United’s goal is symptomatic of the problem. In both games at the Etihad (the second as a substitute) Enrique was at times exposed, surrendering possession and territory too readily.
Dwelling on the ball for too long or taking the wrong path out of trouble is something Enrique has been guilty of fairly frequently. In most games it doesn’t matter, and often makes more sense than simply hoofing the ball away. Against sides lower down the table we need to retain possession, be positive, look to get right back on the front foot from left-back. That’s where the Spaniard excels, and the odd slip can be viewed as a blemish rather than a rash.
At times against the very best, though, we need a dose of pragmatism from Enrique. Essentially, we need good decisions nearly every time. This season it’s not likely to matter often enough to develop into a problem, but were we to qualify for the Champions League again we’d suddenly find the proportion of games where the margins are fine increasing exponentially.
Then we’ll need Enrique to show that he’s more than an excellent Premier League left-back, and can prove the likes of his national coach Vicente del Bosque wrong about his ability to cope at the very top level.
Any observant geeks reading the story about my PC will have noted that I could have avoided the crushing disappointment of finding it rendered obsolete. I could have upgraded, stuck in some more memory, a new graphics card or processor. I’d have been playing with myself, in every sense, for years to come.
That’s essentially the work I’d like to think Liverpool are doing right now with Enrique – taking the most consistently effective left-back in the Premier League and helping him move his game to another level. Crafting a defender as comfortable and assured at the Bernabeu as the Britannia.
In the meantime, his performances might just be enough to lift us up the table to where we want to be. If the plan comes together Enrique will look an even better buy than he does already.
That’s all I’m saying.
Right, now let’s move on to Charlie Adam…
Follow Steve on Twitter, but ideally don’t abuse him, @steve_graves
The only thing that worries me about Jose, is a lack of a right foot, he is reluctant to use it when in trouble and players will soon suss this, but after some of the left back we have had in recent years he will do
A 1GB hard drive on a Pentium 133 with 16MB RAM? I’m skeptical!
I agree with your comments and I think they apply across the whole team …. players who currently are first choice may become squad players having been displaced by a better first choice and current squad players may have to move on. This will be a continuous process over the next 5 years until we have improved the squad to the level that we can compete with Real and Barce. Only certain cash rich clubs can try and expedite this process with big spending. There is a 3rd tier of players that need to be considered and thats the youth players. If occasionally one can become a squad player like Spearing or a first choice like Gerrard then thats the bonus.
The bottom line is the continual improvement of the squad is vital so within the next few years Enrique will move to be a squad player and then moved on. I guess the hope is that Jack Robinson is his natural replacement. But in my opinion it will be a gradual process on Jose is an upgrade on what we had but he is not the final configuration.
Great elaboration. I knew what you were trying to say on the podcast and I was starting to think the same thing. I think the reaction was — in part — because it is what alot of other people were thinking but afraid to say. There is a version of Puritanism in Kop Nation: when one person articulates the doubts starting to form in everyone else’s mind it is easier to brand him/her a disloyal heretic than wrestle with our own doubts.
Let’s hope Steve Clarke and co are working on it right now, because he is a very skilled player who may have that extra gear — up to us to find it.
Drilled pass to Kuyt*. Aside from that insignificant error, I agree with your sentiments, but he’s young and committed, so i’m sure he’ll be able to improve.
I get what you are saying about Enrique and well done for putting it up to be critiqued.
I do sometimes feel he choose the wrong thing to do in tight situations, 7/10 times (@FakeOptaStats) he gets it right, He’ll turn on his inside left foot and run down the wing, or do a one-two with his right foot and run.
As we saw at Man Utd, he got caught and we lose a goal, where since he was first to the ball, he’s meant to kick it into touch and run back into position.
This issue I have is, I’m sure Steve Clarke will work on it with him, but we also don’t want him to lose his flair.
Glen Johnson used to be able to cut in a bit, but he was more effective going to the by-line then whipping it in and I’m sure Carroll longs for the day GJ forgets about his Chelsea goal and stop trying to replicate it every game.
Back to Jóse, I think he can only get better and learn from his mistakes, he is probably the best LB we’ve had in years by the looks so far. It’s also his first season and wants to show everyone how amazing he is. I’m sure he’ll be made to re-watch the videos of his perfomance’s and be shown. “Here kick the ball into the top tier, don’t be clever”
Now onto Martin Kelly…
Jose and Khaled Jehidi coming back to NUFC after your scathing criticism, in a swap for Shola.
A contradictory view in the podcast is what makes a debate and the podcast enjoyable so credit to you.
In my opinion Enrique looks very good at the most of times, but he has a few small flaws he needs weeded out.
Sometimes he needs to make a tackle, and not only try to out-muscle his opponents (such as against Utd), and he needs to make the right decision 10 out of 10 times of when to play ourselves out of a tight situation and when to just clear the ball out of danger.
He needs to improve his crossing and work on his understanding with Carroll as to where the balls should be put. (In his defense a lot of great crosses have only been lacking people actually committing themselves to runs into the box)
I would also want him to become more of a goal threat, as he often finds himself in good situations, whether it be one on one’s with the last defender or within shooting range..
Keep up the good work!
Ive been feeling the same way as of late. I’ve been waiting for some one, anywhere to address it. My mate hasn’t seen it and we’re what seems like the only Liverpool fans stuck in a sea of Manc shite working abroad in Korea. While his defending has been good especially at the beginning of the season, his overall decision making in the offensive half and worse so in the final third are what bothers me. His delivery (excuse the great ball vs. wolves) has been poor and his possession rate is severely lacking. Someone touched on it saying he almost comes off as cocky as well Assuming he’ll out muscle anyone defensively. I hate to sound like I’m bashing him. He’s been a great signing and better than past left backs but he needs to get back to his early season form. With Carroll starting to look more with it Enrique and others (don’t get me started on Downing) need to get good services in. With that and the creativity from Suarez we won’t be so 1-dimensional at times like say against stoke. Hope they keep this form up. Love seeing mancs suffer
I think some of his mistakes have come from his over confidence in his own ability/strength rather than him being only an above average player. He is arguably a much better defender than GJ, but he just made some stupid mistakes which every player does, as long as he learns from them Im more than happy to have him here for years to come.
Great article as always Steve. Brian’s comments above are spot on and exactly how I feel. Enrique has been a very good signing, but if he could improve his decision-making, especially in the last third, he would become a great one.
Shannon Tweed, legend.
My often suspect memory goes back as far as Chris Lawler regarding LFC full backs. However, I refer to my dad when needing thoughtful insight on a players ability. He spent his national service playing footie for the same Lancashire regiment that Jimmy Melia and a number of of other local pro’s red and blue played for. He played against the likes of Duncan Edwards, and so I bow to his critique. However, he agreed with me when I suggested Enrique reminded me of Tarantini, who played for Birmingham briefly. My dad and I where in the Annie road end the day he played against us, and on one occasion, standing on Birmingham’s goal line, calmly trapped a blistering shot at about knee height, and just waltzed out to the byline and served a perfect pass to their winger. I may be wrong, but I think they beat us 1-0 and Tarantini was head and shoulders technically above every player on the day. His Achilles heel was his temperament . I always assumed his confidence and self belief got the better of him, and in that match he was obviously not impressed with his brummie team mates. Enrique has bags of talent,I think we all agree on that, but he lacks (for now) that distinctly northern English gene that say, Spearing has, that is, get fucking rid. I have no doubt that Steve Clarke ripped him a new anus for the Rafael “tackle” and as with all our new arrivals, Downing included, they will prosper from Clarke’s and Kennie’s education. If Enrique can improve his cross balls and spend a little lees time on the ball, then LFC will have a gem. Cheers, Bill.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. What would the point of the podcast be without them?
No, sorry, gibberish.
Of all the players in our squad, Enrique is one who I am least concerned about.
For me, it’s still too early in his Liverpool career to make any meaningful judgments. I don’t personally think Jose has hit peak form for us yet which is only encouraging considering how good he has been.
When we’ve seen the best and worst of Enrique and when the time comes to pass judgment, I’m optimistic that he’ll be due large ticks in the decision-making and delivery checkboxes.
Just digging a bigger hole IMO. I don’t see Enrique any worse than Evra, Clichy or Abidal and they are Left backs at three title challenging teams.
He might not be Lahm or Marcelo going forward but he’s the LB in most pundits Premiere League team of the season for a reason. And that’s because he’s very good at what he does. I just don’t see Enrique as a worry in the slightest.