BACK in July and August, on the eve of the new season, Anfield Wrap writers looked at what the future could hold for players and manager at Liverpool FC as the big kick-off loomed large. A lot has happened since then, not least the sacking of Brendan Rodgers and appointment of Jürgen Klopp. With the international break now upon us, it seemed like a good time to ask the same question again. Here, ANNA WALSH examines Jose Enrique’s Anfield situation and wonders whether anything has changed for the Spaniard, a £6million signing from Newcastle in 2011, who has racked up 96 appearances
WHAT I learned from watching Press Gang (besides the fact that it would be much cooler to be a maverick like Dexter Fletcher than super-organised and always busy like Julia Sawalha) was that a writer should try not to get emotionally involved with their subject.
I first looked at Enrique’s chances in the summer and, in order to avoid clouded judgment, I considered both sides of the debate, giving as much weight to the loudl-shouted Twitter opinions of the FIFA 16 boo boys as to my own delight at the pictures of his awesome Bengal kitten.
I tried half-heartedly to walk in the shoes of the anti-Enrique lobby, who lambasted Enrique for whiling away the hours choosing filters for his Instagrams while the rest of the team toiled in his absence. I too lapped up the stories of the lad who wasn’t really arsed, hanging round with persona-non-grata such as Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini, dragging down little Albie Moreno with their “on-holiday” attitude to life. Clearly not one of Brendan Rodgers’ favourites, Enrique was the last doggy in the window, and his nearly-transfer to West Brom brought out the angry Twitter mobs in force.
Too many holidays, they said. Too many pictures of his nice house and his pretty girlfriend and his tea. Too much time in a suit on matchday and not enough even on the bench. While West Brom were too busy attaching a tracking device to Berahino to complete Enrique’s paperwork, they started on him for sticking around and staying on the wage bill, as though his (admittedly large) weekly wage was the only reason Marco Reus failed to materialise at Melwood over the summer.
Such was the cacophony, Enrique deleted his Instagram and stopped using his Twitter account. Silenced by the haters, his last tweet was quite touching. What leads people to hound someone off Twitter for taking selfies? I’m baffled.
Where did he go, then? After starting only six matches in 2014/5 was that to be the last we saw of the Valencia-born defender? The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce’s assessment at the end of September was that there could be a way back for him, even under Rodgers. But the flowering of Joe Gomez’ talents was another nail in the coffin with a manager who seemed intent on marginalising him.
Under Klopp, though, all bets were off; another flurry of articles suggesting that maybe Enrique could have his Norma Desmond moment under the new manager. But the awful injury to Gomez, and the mixed form of Moreno, surely gave Enrique the chance to impress the new boss, for whom everyone was starting from zero. Still under a self-imposed social media break, the only positive sighting of him under the new regime was at his post-Chelsea Halloween party, and even there he’s hardly recognisable. In fairness, that’s probably the point.
Adding this to Enrique’s unexplained absence from training recently, he seemed an ideal case for the Without a Trace investigators. However, the rumours have been confirmed that his bad luck with injuries has continued, and that he’s now back in training after another recent knock, and able to fight for his place.
(Incidentally, in the research for this piece I came across this as the first Google review of Melwood: “What a dive i am a birmingham fan and our training ground is better.”)
After a really good day’s work, a “job well done” Klopp hug could surely increase productivity in most workplaces. With the new manager still in his honeymoon period, and his profession of a clean slate for everyone, could it be a matter of time before a back-to-fitness Enrique emerges on his radar?
Out of favour under Rodgers, Lucas Leiva’s leonine Renaissance and Sakho’s reassuring passion in defence (until his recent injury) prove that he’s put his money where his mouth is in terms of coming to the players with fresh eyes.
Despite failing to live up to his price tag for many of the fans last season, Adam Lallana’s passable impressions of a gegenpresser have impressed the rangy German too, and showed us that a change at the top can make a difference to the whole team, even in this short a time.
A confident Ibe is now showing the skills that his potential merited, and though he’s not a new Sterling, we are certainly seeing a new player with renewed swagger. Klopp’s man-management skills are getting the players running through the pain wall in order to be part of the boss’s joy at the final whistle.
And if anyone could do with one of Klopp’s performance-enhancing hugs right now, it’s Enrique.
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