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.
[quote]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.[/quote]
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.
Next Page: The in-depth stats for and against Jose Enrique at Left Wing position… (click on page 2 below or click here to read more on Jose Enrique’s Stats)
Jose Enrique Creativity
Jose Enrique’s creativity has been an important part of his move further up the field. If you look at the table below whilst Jose has created pretty much the same amount in the games he’s played at left back and at left wing it is the increase in clear-cut chances. He seems to have a knack of creating sitters for the team and the numbers below show that he’s created four times.
In the three games at left wing he’s created four clear-cut chances. That’s more than any other player had created in the whole of this season for Liverpool FC (stat counts as of full time against Spurs as Suarez created on clear-cut chance against Southampton but only had 3 when these stats were collected). In total Jose Enrique has created six clear-cut chances – the most in the Liverpool squad and joint fourth in the entire Premier League for 2012/13 (as shown below).
Creativity is definitely a positive for Jose Enrique in the left-wing position – he’s played tough competition and created quality chances for the side – this cannot be ignored despite my overall feeling that he should be played at left-back.
Jose Enrique Shooting
This may be a “moot” point because moving forward does mean you will have more attempts at goal but more attempts at goal is good for Liverpool. For example Raheem Sterling has attempted one shot in a game on 50% of his starts this season. Liverpool require more attempts from their wingers and Jose has had multiple attempts at goal in three of his games since moving and has also got into positions to score – he could have done better in some situations but the movement is there and he’s done well in getting into position which is surprising for a player that is supposed to be a left back.
Next Page: Jose Enrique Tackling, Possession Wins & Losses and Passing – Oh and a conclusion… (click on page 3 below or click here to read more on Jose Enrique’s Stats)
Jose Enrique Tackling
His tackling hasn’t really changed that much since his move to left-wing. He’s still putting in challenges and winning them too. Jose is a beast so this part of his game is also an advantage at left-wing – attacking from the front is a key part of Brendan Rodgers’ game. Although he didn’t attempt any tackles against Spurs I don’t think this a part of the game that Jose will lose and will put that down to a one-off more than a decline in his defensive nature.
Jose Enrique Possession
Now this is where things go a little pear-shaped for Jose. As mentioned before “defending from the front” is good for the new Liverpool FC system however “keeping the ball” is even more important. The table below shows that Jose is winning the ball further up the pitch now which he hadn’t done before this season but he’s losing the ball even more now. The games against Chelsea, Wigan, Swansea and Tottenham averaged 22.25 possession losses per game since moving further up the pitch – this is a pretty poor showing. He must improve on this and maybe this was one of the reasons for Jose being moved back to left back against Southampton.
Jose Enrique Passing
After keeping the ball so well against Chelsea you’d have probably thought that Jose was going to improve with keeping the ball playing at left-wing. However he’s averaging 68% in the three games as a fully fledged left winger. This is not good enough and certainly goes against the “keep ball” strategy. I feel his passes are rushed at times and this is what causes his inaccuracy to be so high. He managed his lowest pass accuracy against Swansea with just 61%. In most games Jose will be the player who will have the lowest pass completion – surely something he needs to work on.
So is Jose Enrique a left winger or should he stay at left back?
The stats don’t lie – Jose has been a threat and his creativity is excellent as a left winger. However I feel his best role is of a left-wing-back. The game against Chelsea was probably his best performance with so many tackles won, good attacking play and link up with Suarez. There are pros and cons for his move to left-wing as shown above. The Newcastle game showed that Enrique can link up with Suarez by playing at left-back and in the recent move back to left back against Southampton Enrique found himself overlapping a lot more.
Maybe playing Jose at left-wing for a few games has opened his mind to the attacking side a lot more because he was definitely involved in attacks yesterday even though he was playing at left back and should have scored too after a great one-two with, yep you guessed it, Luis Suarez.
A lot of you will think that the advantage of his clear-cut creativity should mean that he should start at left wing however I feel it’s still not his best role and he should start at left back or left wingback when we play a three at the back. I find him terribly frustrating when he loses possession – maybe its just me but whilst the stats say he’s been excellent for the attacking side the results don’t show this. In the four games we beat only Wigan at home, we drew two and lost the other whilst moving back to left back got us a win against Southampton?
Either way the debate will continue – you can let me know what you think by leaving a comment below because the jury may still be out but for me – he’s our best left back and should really play in his most suited position. Oh and no more Downing at Left Back either please!
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.
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