If you’d told me a year ago – that Stewart Downing would be playing at left back and that Jose Enrique would be playing left wing for Liverpool in 2012/13 then I’d have probably doused you with scurrilous comments and laughed at your stupidity. Well it’s happened and how moronic would I look now? Brendan Rodgers, in the last two games at least, seems to think this combination was correct for trips to Swansea and Tottenham – two teams that exemplify attacking at speed whilst utilising their width.
With players like Dyer, Hernandez, Routledge, Lennon & Bale at the oppositions disposal – the decision to play, a morali depleted, Stewart Downing was not only concerning but perplexing too. In my (humble) opinion I’d say that Glen Johnson would have exceeded here and whilst that would leave Gareth Bale against a young Andre Wisdom it would be a risk I’d be willing to take.
Nevertheless this article is not about Stewart Downing – seriously, it’s not – it’s about Liverpool’s new left-back-come-wing-back-come-left-winger, the FIFA King – ‘El Toro’Jose Enrique.
Before we look at the reasons For or Against Jose Enrique at left wing – let’s see how he may have worked his way into this position.
How it started: Jose Enrique the provider
Note it down – November 4th 2012 was the date when this new experiment had it’s beginning or the idea of it at least. In the game against Newcastle United, at Anfield, Jose Enrique played a superb ball to Luis Suarez who controlled the ball with sublime skill, rounded Tim Krul and tapped the ball in the net at the Kop End.
Replays showed Jose looking up and nodding at Luis to make the run so it wasn’t a “punt”, he meant it – it was a brilliant pass (shown to the right).
Could this have been the catalyst to move Enrique further up the pitch? It seemed to have given Brendan Rodgers an idea – a bit like a light switch turning on at an opportune moment. It seems Rodgers decided that he could use the telepathic understanding between Enrique and Suarez to Liverpool’s advantage further up the pitch.
To be fair this is the one and only positive that I see in Jose moving further up the pitch. Whilst he was brilliant in the first half of last season, I now find Jose Enrique a terribly frustrating player to watch but more on that later.
Jose Enrique Cements Position with Display at The Bridge
At Stamford Bridge Jose Enrique played as a left-wing-back and performed very well. He linked up with well with Suarez (as shown below) and was also very strong against the Chelsea side winning all of his seven tackles as well as holding the ball much better than usual – (he attempted the more passes than he had done all season and managed his second best accuracy too – 79%). Liverpool secured a draw late on and it seems the experiment had only just begun. (Editors Note:This Chelsea side was in a major slump and had not won for a while – their next game would be Roberto Di Matteo’s last – just say.)
At Anfield it was even better. The opponents were Wigan – Jose scored a goal and created one for Suarez again, the second time he’d done that in three games (adding more fuel to the left-wing fire) and in fact created a season high for himself in chances created – 4. He also created two clear-cut chances and has stacked up a total of 6 this season already (all in his last six starts – more on this later). The assist is show in the yellow arrow above.
It was a different story against Swansea – downhill a little. A record number of possession losses for Jose as he was off the boil here – a few on Twitter still gave him the man of the match however I wouldn’t agree. So many passes were rushed and as many never got to their intended target – another low for Jose this season was the 61% passing accuracy for him against Swansea. The link up with Suarez was also minimal apart from Suarez turning provider and Enrique managing to put a clear-cut chance wide with help of his chest and thigh. He’s not a finisher – his goal that he scored was a tap in so we shouldn’t expect that from him if he plays at left-wing regularly.
In both games (Swansea (A) & Spurs (A)) Jose averaged only 57% and 58% of accurate passes in the final third – much below his highest of 78% Vs Arsenal earlier in the season – so he can do it but maybe not from the left-midfield or winger role.
Against Spurs it was a little better in terms of linking up with Suarez but still no where near as good as the first game. However there was another low for Jose against Spurs as he was dispossessed 4 times, the most in any game he’d appeared in so far. An important factor of playing the type of game that Brendan Rodgers is trying to forge at Liverpool is the possession game – well with these two away games it shows that Jose is losing the ball far too much. In both games (Swansea (A) & Spurs (A)) Jose averaged only 57% and 58% of accurate passes in the final third – much below his highest of 78% Vs Arsenal earlier in the season – so he can do it but maybe not from the left-midfield or winger role.