Heading into the 2013-2014 season, it feels as though Liverpool are in a very familiar position to recent seasons past--fairly established starter at left-back, but a frightening lack of depth and worrying inconsistency that'd leave the club an injury shy of a crisis state. We saw it this season and all too aware of it over the past six or seasons, and while Jose Enrique's improved form over the second half of the season is encouraging--as is his intention to kick on with the club from here--it shouldn't prevent Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool from further strengthening at fullback.
Along with Stewart Downing, Enrique found himself in the less than glorious position of being Rodgers' first public whipping boys during the fall, noting that the club wouldn't "waste time" shipping them out if they didn't show the requisite motivation and determination. It worked a treat(ish) for both, as they gradually improved as the season progressed, with both ending the campaign as established starters in a side that seemed to make significant strides from the turn of the year.
For Enrique it's solidified hopes that he'll be around to continue the upward trajectory after a mostly difficult 2012, as well as to further his growing attachment to the club and its supporters:
"I haven't spoken with the manager about next season but I want to stay. I still have to improve some things but I think I'm getting better every season. As you get older you know more. This type of football the manager wants has really helped me as it's the type of football I love to play. I am happy at this incredible club and in this city. The support we get from the fans is amazing and also from people inside the club who do so much for us. I still have three years on my contract and hopefully I can stay at this club for many years.
"When you are not in good form, they kill you and say you will have to leave. It's fine. That's normal but I was never worried about that. I knew I could do well. For six months when I first signed for Liverpool I was playing really well. At the start of this season I was playing with a knee problem and it was difficult. It hurt me and we didn't have the solution for a long time. That meant I couldn't play like I knew I could. Once that was sorted out I was able to contribute for the team."
It's hard to recall any overtly lazy performances during the fall, and the revelation that he was injured--which I think we learned earlier in the spring--seems to do enough explaining for the worrying dip in form that saw him become a liability at both ends of the pitch. With little backup available it left the club with no other option but to use Glen Johnson on the left and unproven Andre Wisdom on the other side.
While that didn't turn out to be the catastrophe it could have, it underlined a renewed need for Liverpool to further strengthen at the fullback position, with neither of fitness nor form guaranteed by any of the current squad members. It's wonderful that Jose Enrique wants to stick around, and by all indications he likely will be, but that cannot be an excuse for the club to once again enter a season short-handed at fullback.