The Spanish full-back has been plagued by a lack of form over the past six months, leading to fans and manager Brendan Rodgers questioning his commitment to the cause
By David Lynch
Supporters of Kenny Dalglish have been known to point to the Scot’s rare successes in the transfer market as evidence that his second reign at Liverpool was not a complete, unmitigated disaster.
Though the Anfield legend lifted the League Cup during his most recent spell at the helm, his legacy in terms of signing players alongside Damien Comolli continues to attract strong criticism and has been widely suggested as the sole reason for his sacking.
Unfortunately for the loyalists, the list of players which can be categorised as having made a positive impact since their arrival on Merseyside during that period has also slowly shrunk.
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Liverpool fans instantly took the stocky left-back to their hearts, impressed by his strength in the tackle and ability going forward, but there was a fundamentally negative reason for the ease in which they were wooed by their new defender.
This was a fanbase which had only recently witnessed John Arne Riise’s sad decline, before being grossly overexposed to the inexperienced Emiliano Insua, a man thrown in at the deep end. Roy Hodgson, a manager who prides himself on defensive organisation, did little to alleviate the problem by bringing Paul Konchesky to the club, and it was little surprise when the full-back failed to make the required step up.
This was not an issue which seemed to plague the former Villarreal man in front of the intimidating Kop at first but, six months into his time at the club, things changed. Defensive uncertainty and a propensity for taking needless gambles began to rear its head and they are faults which have since characterised Enrique’s game.
It had been hypothesised that such tactical naivety could be cured by a manager as famously hands-on as Brendan Rodgers following his arrival in place of Dalglish, but it has taken the Northern Irishman just four months to deliver his damning verdict.
In reference to Enrique, the Reds boss recently told reporters: “It is about the hunger and desire and that is why you admire big players who stay at the top for as long as they can because it is not just what they are doing in games.
“But if you are not quite right in your preparation and you come in looking in for an easy life, to pick up your money, it won’t be here. We are a club that has to be fighting going forward. I am out there every day, assessing what is going on.”
The 39-year-old appeared to echo the concerns voiced by fans since the former Newcastle man’s disastrous downturn in form and offered a concerning insight into the lack of focus which appears to have borne it out.
Enrique’s recent Twitter contributions regarding his pregnant wife and his victory in a celebrity Fifa video game tournament will also do little to allay fears that he is not fully concentrated on getting back to his best.
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And, though there has been talk of trouble with a knee injury, the Europa League is certainly not being prioritised by Rodgers, should Enrique not be eased back into first-team action here then a harsh decree has been handed down.
The Spaniard’s cause is further harmed by the fact he faces stiff competition from Glen Johnson, who has excelled on either side of defence in his absence, and the emerging duo of Andre Wisdom and Jack Robinson. Though the latter’s lack of physical presence makes him a less viable current option than his fellow academy graduate, he is a highly-rated prospect at Melwood and could well be fast-tracked beyond Enrique.
And so the left-back faces a decision. If all that Rodgers suggests is true - and this is a manager often criticised for his openness with the press - then Enrique is not showing the professionalism required to stay at a club with Liverpool’s aspirations.
The new manager will live or die by what his players do on the pitch, as his predecessor found to his cost, and those who do not share Rodgers’ commitment are unlikely to be tolerated beyond January.
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