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Does Our Criticism Require More Balanced Thinking?

Ste Hoare looks at criticism of players and his ‘that’ Liverpool player.

As much as we enjoy making flippant comments about incompetence, shouldn’t we be more rational?

We’ve all got that one player who we seem to be extra critical of, don’t we? If you have listened to our weekly podcast TBT Talks recently, you’ll have heard me and some of the other guys on the show giving Jose Enrique a fair bit of criticism, and he’s definitely ‘that’ player who I often single out for stick. It’s been pointed out to me recently that perhaps I’ve been harsh on the Spaniard, so I’ve listened back to a few of the episodes and although some of the criticism of him is justified in my opinion, I admit that I may well have been a bit hard on him.

I guess that it’s the same for every fan when talking about ‘that’ player. Those who call Lucas ‘useless’ are being unfair on him, he’s a Brazilian international player after all. Those insisting that we sell Raheem Sterling probably ignore that he’s just a young man working hard towards becoming a Liverpool player and that isn’t an easy transition to make.
I could go on mentioning the likes of Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel and many others who often received criticism that is probably a bit too harsh.

As a character, I actually like the man who is ‘that’ player for me; Jose Enrique. He comes across as a determined player who is proud to wear the red shirt. I would certainly never question his commitment. What I do question, however, is his concentration levels and the fact that he often switches off at vital moments, such as when he was marking Javier Hernandez in the League Cup game at Old Trafford.

The main reason why I, and many other Liverpool fans, get frustrated by Enrique is because he has all the physical tools needed to be a fantastic left back for the club. He is big, strong, quick and he possesses the ability to link up well in the final third, particularly with Luis Suarez. What annoys me is that for all the physical gifts he possesses, he never makes the most of his ability, and it’s often due to his mental deficiencies, both in terms of decision making and concentration.

Sometimes you’ll see a player who you just know isn’t good enough to play for Liverpool, take Paul Konchesky for example. That man was never going to be a Liverpool player because other than a half decent cross, he didn’t have the ability to perform for a big club in big games – although his mother will probably disagree! It was hard to actually get angry or annoyed by Konchesky because he looked to be doing his best, it was just that his best was nowhere near good enough, hence why the manager who signed him took the criticism for signing and playing such an inept player.

Jose Enrique is a much, much better player than Konchesky ever was but it’s actually easier to get annoyed with him as you can see that he has the potential to offer so much more than he delivers. I actually don’t think he’s that bad a player, and if Aly Cissokho’s horror show against Arsenal turns out not to be just a bad game but actually a clear indicator of his ability, then Enrique is probably the best option we have at left back/left wing back.

However when I am asked about Jose Enrique, I’ll often say “he’s crap” or “he’s thick”, without really giving a balanced view on him as a player like I’ve written above. Even if he’s had a good game, I’ve often offered one of those backhanded compliments, such as “It makes a change”. I guess that is easier than giving a more balanced view though, after all he’s ‘that’ player. I guess the question is, should we all stop having a ‘that’ player and instead try to be a bit fairer with criticism of ‘that’ player? I think we all probably should.

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