Among the early storylines crowded out in the early season by Daniel Sturridge's goalscoring form and the confident, assured performances by Simon Mignolet has been the relative improvement by Jose Enrique at left-back. The Spaniard started his Liverpool career with talk of a call-up to the Spanish national team; he was inserted into the starting eleven almost immediately under Kenny Dalglish and didn't look back, cementing himself as one of the top left-backs in the country.
As was the case with much of the squad that season, his form started to fade, however, and the first few months under Brendan Rodgers saw Enrique slip further down the pecking order through injury and poor form, with a sale mentioned as a possibility despite the club not really having another left-sided fullback in the senior squad. As fitness and form improved, though, Enrique gradually worked himself back to a serviceable level, and even through a shaky preseason, he's managed to perform well in each his of four starts in the Premier League.
And while we can't quite attribute it to actual competition just yet, there's at least the idea of it looming just around the corner--Aly Cissokho's injury in his first ten minutes as a Liverpool player ruled him out until early October, but Enrique's managed to pick up on the fact that his spot is anything but secure if he suffers another lapse in form:
"We're all fighting for our places. The competition is very good for us. We also have Aly [Cissokho] as well, although he is injured now. It takes the maximum from you and with the manager, the players who deserve to play and do well will play for him. It's important to have someone behind you that you know could take your place."
For a player who so often--even when he's seemingly on a run of good form--seems to go on a mental walkabout in the middle of matches, competition would appear to be the right tonic. Enrique can, at times, be absolutely devastating for the opposition at both ends of the pitch, using his frame and speed to get up and down the left flank, showing good awareness in the defensive third and solid distribution at the attacking end. Or, he can completely lose track of himself and his surroundings, showing a complete lack of awareness anywhere and distribution that either ends up at the opposition's feet or in Row Z.
Those forehead-slapping moments haven't been as frequent early this season, and while he hasn't yet returned to the heights of his early Liverpool career, he's done all that's been asked of him with little fuss. And if right now it's just the idea of competition pushing him to improve, let's hope Aly Cissokho's return to the squad helps Jose Enrique improve even further.