As a Newcastle United fan it was painful viewing on Saturday watching Jose Enrique maraud down the left side of Anfield wearing the deep red of Liverpool. It felt like he was cheating on the club that brought him to prominence and gave him the chance display his talents in the biggest and most popular league on the planet
Ever since it became public knowledge that Enrique wanted out of St James’ Park and Liverpool wanted to bring him to Merseyside his departure was a foregone conclusion. Now lets get this straight I don’t hate Enrique and I certainly don’t blame him for having the ambition to challenge for trophies, play in Europe and ultimately represent his national team. His chances of achieving these goals will be greatly enhanced at Anfield. But is he the man to finally fill the left back problem that has existed at Anfield ever since John Arne Riise left the club?
I’m not going to sit on the fence regarding this matter and frankly I don’t think he’s the man to plug that gap. His performances over the last four seasons have definitely endeared Enrique to a lot of Geordie fans, myself included. However a lot of people look at the Spaniard with rose tinted spectacles and disregard his lack of ability to operate in his specialist position. In my Enrique is hugely overrated. The fact is that for a defender he isn’t actually the best at defending. When faced against a winger with tricky feet and the ability to bamboozle then Enrique will get beaten very easily. He doesn’t have the discipline to just stand his ground and force the winger to back track. Too many times he will try and put his foot in or use his body to shield the ball from the winger giving away a free kick in a dangerous area. The Arsenal 4-4 game provides the best example with three of the crosses for the goals coming from Enrique’s side. Theo Walcott had him in his pocket during that first 45 minutes until the famous second half capitulation. Heading is also another weak part of his game and he doesn’t fair well when an aerial challenge comes about.
In fact the only reason Enrique’s defensive frailties are overlooked is because of the work Jonas Gutierrez puts in to help him when he’s under assault. The Argentinian grafts his socks off to get back and help Enrique out and is usually the man to regain possession and alleviate any pressure on the defence. Now that Enrique is at Liverpool this will mean Stewart Downing will have to finely tune his defensive duties although I’m sure the England winger won’t track like Gutierrez does which will put Enrique under pressure he hasn’t experience for a few years.
You could say that his defensive game is weak because he is part of the new breed of attacking full backs. Whilst he is great at going forward and charging to the by-line he’s only scored one goal in his entire Newcastle career whilst his assists count isn’t anything to shout home about. His crossing is okay at times and he can whip a delicious ball into the box when given the space too. But more often than not when he has to cross the ball under pressure he either over hits it or checks back and tries to find another route to goal subsequently losing the ball. There’s also his erratic passing to contend with which Liverpool fans will get frustrated with. For a man possessing a superb left foot he lets himself down with his lack of accuracy when making a simple five-yard ball. It seems his concentration deserts him when he has to make a simple decision. I will say that when it comes to delivering long balls he does have superb accuracy but is often let down by teammates misjudging the ball or possessing poor control.
Enrique does have some positives to his game with his unbelievable strength and speed that making it nigh on impossible to beat him using the long ball. But due to the many negative aspects I don’t think he is the man to fill the left back slot at Liverpool. Their agenda over the next few seasons is to get back into Europe, the title race and to win some trophies. Enrique, for me, doesn’t have the abilities or the experience to help them achieve that. I honestly think he’ll be Liverpool’s weak link especially in Europe and at 25-years-old is way past the learning curve.