Is Left-Back Liverpool's Most Pressing Need in January with Jose Enrique Injury?

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Jose Enrique of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield on October 5, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed on Thursday that regular left-back Jose Enrique would likely require surgery to correct ongoing pain in his knee.

As per, a period of rest has not helped solve the issue, and it is still unclear just how long the Spaniard will be absent for.

Until now, it has been widely talked about amongst the fanbase that a holding or defensive midfielder would be the team's primary focus in the January transfer window, but do Jose Enrique's ongoing problems change that?

Centre midfield

While Lucas Leiva has put in improved performances of late, earning a recall to the Brazil national team, the fact is that the Reds still lack depth in an area they have used three players in often this season—despite only having four total in the squad.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Liverpool player Lucas in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on August 24, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

For several windows in succession, the Reds have either been unable or decided not to strengthen the depth in that area of the pitch, putting a lot of pressure on the form and fitness of Lucas and club captain Steven Gerrard, with only Joe Allen in place as back-up. Jordan Henderson is the other central midfielder—but he has been used, again, in a variety of roles depending on the team's tactics.

The lack of options has seemed to cost the team at times, and having no defensive midfielder at all when Lucas has been injured is not something that Rodgers would want to continue with, especially once the Reds are back involved in cup games or in Europe.

Although a number of top deep midfielders moved last summer, there remain several potentially on the market who would strengthen the team considerably.


With Jose Enrique injured, the Reds will likely keep faith with on-loan defender Aly Cissokho for the Merseyside derby, and presumably beyond as well.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Aly Cissokho of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on October 19, 2013 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney
Julian Finney/Getty Images

However, he is yet to fully convince with his performances, being somewhat ungainly going forward and not as aggressive defensively as might be hoped. Still searching for full fitness of his own and competing in a new league, it is understandable that he might not be in top form, but the Reds cannot afford to mollycoddle a player who potentially won't even be their own next season while they maintain a top-four challenge.

Jack Robinson is out on loan, which leave the options of either playing Mamadou Sakho at left-back—solid, but far less aggressive—or switching Glen Johnson from right to left.

BANGKOK, THAILAND - JULY 27: Martin Kelly of Liverpool FC kicks the ball during a Liverpool FC training session at Rajamangala Stadium on July 27, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.  (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)
Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

The latter might have been the best option if Martin Kelly was fully fit, but the young defender is still struggling to reclaim full fitness after his long absence due to an ACL injury.

All told, the Reds look as though they need to make a decision on the long-term future of the position and move accordingly—preferably in the next transfer window.

Liverpool's Winter Window

Last season, Liverpool added two quality attacking additions to the squad, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, who significantly aided the team's progress.

That has been shown in the goals scored and the points returned since January, both at the end of last season and the start of this one.

Perhaps, then, this year it will be the chance for Rodgers to inject a similar quality into the team, but this time in the defensive third.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers issues instructions during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 26, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Ge
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

A top midfielder and better depth at full-back, even if not necessarily a genuine long-term starter at this point, could well be the difference between Liverpool's form holding out for the season and stuttering to a close, but ultimately unsuccessful, finish.

Attaining Champions League football is a must for the club this term.

The attacking section of the team is as good as anything the league has to offer with Luis Suarez, Sturridge, Coutinho and Gerrard all in form, aided by others from the second line, but the defensive organisation and numbers available to the manager to change things around could still do with improvements.

If Rodgers and his scouting team can identify the players to fill those two positions in January, it could well mean a massive push toward attaining the season objective.

If only one signing can be made, though, Jose Enrique's injury and Cissokho's failure to settle in quickly could well mean that it is the left-back role which gets immediate attention rather than central midfield once January rolls around.


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