Given a start at right-back against Arsenal, Jon Flanagan turned in a composed, controlled performance at his natural position. He wasn't overwhelming, but as emergency cover he was more than ready, acquitting himself as one of Liverpool's best on the day, albeit a day on which few in the Liverpool impressed. For many--myself included--it appeared a one-off, though, a performance in a pinch that was a stop-gap measure more than anything else, only meant to buy Brendan Rodgers time until Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique were fit again.
And that's probably where things are still headed, but Flanagan's display yesterday in the derby deserves better than "stop-gap." Along with Simon Mignolet, he was Liverpool's best on the day in an unfamiliar left-back role; he's a novice in first-team football regardless of where plays, but at left-back he's especially unproven, drawing only on a few appearances in the preseason tour as relevant experience.
Turns out it didn't really matter, and for the young fullback, the occasion and his performance provided the realization of a lifelong dream:
"It's a dream come true just to get another chance. Playing for Liverpool's first team is unbelievable for me. To play in a derby as a local lad, who has grown up supporting Liverpool, was a dream come true. The derby is the biggest of games. It's as big as they get - Liverpool v Everton - for a local lad. All my family are Reds and I think they'll be proud of my performance today. The manager just said well done and told me to keep going and to keep working hard. He said I had a good game, so I've just got to keep going now.
"The lads worked hard and we did well to get in front early on. Second half, we were unlucky to go behind, but we fought back and got a point. We're always progressing. Everton didn't gain any points on us and we're still up and around there [the top of the table]. So we've just got to keep going and hopefully get a couple more wins in the next couple of games."
He's been around for awhile now--first impressing against Manchester City at Anfield in 2011, only to fade from view with a difficult start to the 2011-2012 campaign under Kenny Dalglish and find himself in the youth and reserve ranks rather than the first-team picture with which he'd become familiar as an 18 year old. Fortunately that fade wasn't accompanied by a commitment to improving himself, an attribute that's led to two very good appearances in the senior squad in the last month.
Now it's looking likely that there will be more to come, with yesterday's performance seemingly placing him far ahead of Aly Cissokho as first-choice left-back for the immediate future, at least until Jose Enrique is match fit again. And while he might not be a player with whom many will feel consistently comfortable, Jon Flanagan has shown of late that he's plenty capable not only of filling a void, but sticking around the first team setup for awhile.