Jose Enrique is the latest player to join Kenny Dalglish’s red revolution at Anfield. But what are Liverpool going to get? This Newcastle United fan breaks it down.
Enrique’s passing can sometimes be hit and miss. His natural instinct upon arrival to English football was always to try and play the ball out of defence, even if sometimes a full back’s best option can be simply to hoof it into the stands. Even now he’s always looking to start attacks from the back by making short passes in field before bombing down the left wing.
Although capable over short distances, distributing the ball over long distances is not his forte and he is reliant on using his left foot for such attempts. Although not one-dimensional by any means the statistics don’t lie and despite playing in a team that scored a respectable amount of goals and being an attacking force within that team, he only mustered one assist in thirty six appearances, suggesting he does lack the ability to play that killer pass.
His trademark is playing short one-twos with the midfield to develop his position, retain possession and keep attacks flowing.
His pace is a godsend not only for the teams he plays in but also for himself. While adapting to the rigours of the English game his pace would be the get out of jail free card that he could use when the inevitable mistakes were made. Even when players look to have broken away from him his pace always puts him back into contention to make a challenge of some sort.
He’s also spritely going forward too and often uses his pace to get free on the overlap and receive passes in the wide channels. He can sustain this pace over long distances, which gives him the edge over a lot of full backs and indeed other players on the pitch. He can also be quite explosive over a short distance allowing him to occupy good positions on the field and makes him difficult to mark on set pieces.
Strength & Stamina
What would you expect from someone known as “The Bull”? While in his first season even he was surprised at just how robust the English game was, a season in The Championship battling against cloggers like Doncaster toughened him up and made him into a much better player. Not many players can muscle him off the ball, nor come out better from a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge.
The downside to his strength is that sometimes the opposing players, in that continental style of theirs, make the challenges look worse than they actually are, meaning Enrique can often become a target for referees looking to impose their authority on the game. As he continues to develop his game he needs to be a little smarter about when to commit and when not to.
Still, his robust physicality will always put him in good stead out there on the field and he never shirks a challenge. His crunching tackles made him a fans favourite at St. James and that will no doubt continue to be the case at Liverpool.
He also has a great engine and can make those runs of his all game. While fitness is a must in the Premier League, even the best players can tire in the later stages of the game. This is when Enrique can come into his own, running at pace whilst being pursued by tired legs.
Shooting & Set Pieces
He’s not gun-shy but his goal scoring record for an attacking player is pretty poor. He bagged only one goal for Newcastle in over a hundred appearances, yet still always seems to be in positions to shoot. Perhaps always looking for the spectacular, Enrique will always give you cause to jump out your seat with some long shots from distance that come close but rarely will you see the back of the net bulge.
On set pieces he can provide a different option. Surprisingly accurate on left footed free kicks from twenty five or thirty yards, he can force goalkeepers into making saves even if they never end up in goals. He can also take left footed corners, his passing of a static ball when he has time to pick out a pass proving competent.
When on the receiving end of a set piece he generally uses his strength and pace to make a nuisance of himself, tying up defenders and creating gaps for other attacking players to exploit. Certainly he is one of the busiest players in the box when a free kick is coming in.
Hard to gauge at times. He gives little away in terms of emotion but it’s fair to say that his actions speak for themselves. He’s ambitious and determined, will often be a player who is still running and making challenges even when you find yourself 4-0 down. While players such as Barton might have been a more obvious target for the plaudits, Enrique too embodied that “never say die” attitude and was instrumental in grinding out results or mounting comebacks.
He can get frustrated on the pitch though, sometimes giving away pointless free-kicks and picking up yellow cards that could be avoided. This is hardly a cardinal sin but it does detract slightly from his capacity to be a positive influence on the outcome of the game for his team.
Very technically astute, Enrique has good close control and can be quick to shift his body the right way to create enough space to play a pass under pressure. It is still true that he heavily favours his left foot though and as such he can be forced onto his weaker side and made to make mistakes.
Possibly the weakest part of his game. It is always the case that the greatest attacking full backs often have a deficiency when it comes to the basic defensive duties in the game and this is Enrique’s. Often caught out of position when he’s been attacking, or guilty of not picking up his marker when a pass is made, he can be a liability if playing a team set-up to counter-attack. He can also be guilty of being the player that doesn’t hold the line in an offside trap and teams that rely on disciplined defence would have to try and accommodate some of the deficiencies in his game.
From an attacking perspective though he always knows where he needs to be. He can identify when there’s space to attack and occupy, he knows when to come infield and his give and go passing can create space that sometimes goes to waste if his teammates aren’t on the same page as him.
During defensive set-pieces Enrique was often the player that would be placed on the line and he stuck to this task admirably.
Awareness & Vision
Both of these qualities are excellent and sometimes he finds himself frustrated when his colleagues can’t match him in this area. Often looking to make short, snappy passes, sometimes players don’t make the runs that to him seem obvious resulting in possession lost and Enrique gesticulating at the would be recipient.
These days he is rarely caught on the ball, using his peripheral vision in conjunction with his upper body strength to ensure he has enough time and space to play the right kind of pass to maintain possession. He also knows when he can catch a defender flat footed by running at them with his electric pace and it’s entirely likely that he will enjoy as the other new left side addition Stewart Downing.
Liverpool has bought one of the best left-backs in the Premiership. While he may be lacking when it comes to defensive duties, going forward he has few equals in what he brings to the table. The real question is whether or not he can fit into Dalglish’s new-look but old-feel Liverpool, who have been leaking goals in pre-season as if they were Newcastle in disguise. Certainly he has all the attributes to be hugely successful at any club in the world but with so much attacking focus already in the Liverpool squad he may find himself having to do the unglamorous work he’s not known for.
Still, one thing is for certain, he’s going to be a massive improvement over Paul Konchesky.
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