When Kenny Dalglish was appointed as Liverpool’s new manager in January, the well-respected Scot inherited a huge problem in the left-back position of an under-performing squad. Paul Konchesky failed to make the grade on Merseyside, while Fabio Aurelio’s fitness issues meant he could not be relied upon to fill the gap. Dalglish turned to right-back Glen Johnson and 17-year-old Jack Robinson in an attempt to solve the ‘left-back problem’. However, with Spanish defender Jose Enrique now on Liverpool’s books, Dalglish has arguably found a low-cost solution to a problem which has been around since John Arne Riise departed Anfield in 2008.
The big-money arrivals of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing this summer may have overshadowed Enrique’s long-awaited move, but the highly-rated Spaniard, who was thrown straight into the mix to face Sunderland within the space of just a couple of days of his transfer, is already impressing the supporters. Enrique made more successful passes (53) than any other player in the 1-1 opening-day draw against the Black Cats, while he also won 100% of his tackles that afternoon and broke up an opposition attack on average every 10 minutes.
The athletic 25-year-old once against topped the charts in the most recent game against Bolton Wanderers, where he recorded an 80% successful pass-rate, completing 55 passes – more than any other player on the pitch. Four of these passes made their way into the opposition box – the only other player to spread play into the danger area on as many occasions was Dirk Kuyt. In contrast, last seasons game against Bolton at Anfield saw Aurelio successfully complete just 71% of his passes, with only two of his balls finding their way into the area.
The statistics from Enrique’s performances so far this season show that he offers Liverpool great solidity at the back and is also able to assist with attacks going forward. He is more than capable of making surging runs down the touchline and playing the ball into the box. Enrique is comfortable on the ball and in two of the three games this season, the full-back has made more passes than any other player on the pitch.
In addition to this, attacking opposition players find it very difficult to beat Enrique. The Spaniard was dribbled past on just nine occasions in 36 league games last season – on fewer occasions than the Premier League’s other top left-backs such as Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole, Patrice Evra and Gael Clichy. And the former Valencia and Villarreal man is not a bad dribbler himself – Enrique completed 65 dribbles for Newcastle United last season, compared to Baines’ and Evra’s 26.
There are some doubts over Enrique’s aerial presence and some critics suggest that he does not score enough goals, however in terms of reliability at the back, keeping possession and building up play, the Spaniard is one of the best in the business. Liverpool reportedly signed the defender for a fee of around £6m and if he can keep up his early season promise, the capture of Enrique could go down as one of the most astute pieces of business of the summer.
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