Making The Case for Wataru Endō Against Everton

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Endo for the Derby?

I wrote a piece previewing the upcoming Merseyside Derby this week, where I predicted a line-up that I thought may start the red next Premier League game. Given the South American contingent had returned in good time and the fact that the weekend’s game was at Anfield, meant I disregarded any travel that may have been undertaken, thereby choosing to put out my team of choice based on sheer preference.

This was the predicted line-up within my preview.

GK – Alisson Becker

RB – Trent Alexander Arnold

RCB – Ibrahima Konaté

LCB – Virgil van Dijk

LB – Joe Gomez

RCM – Dominik Szoboszlai

CDM – Alexis Mac Allister

LCM – Ryan Gravenberch

RF – Mohamed Salah

CF – Darwin Núñez

LF – Luis Díaz

I believe it is very difficult to envisage which player may perform and which players may need a rest, short of a player being run into the ground by his country and flown home a mere day before kick-off. In this game week. One encounter, absolutely nothing short of three points is an acceptable result, which had me leaning towards those that can inflict most damage, when I wrote this week’s preview. I was more drawn to the potential fear and subsequent damage Liverpool could inflict on their fragile neighbours, yet upon reflection, I find myself a little more cautious and a little less keen to see all our South American players participating. I have hesitated in my thinking, which is something that I hope Jürgen Klopp is doing also.

The week prior to this saw all our fully fit and available midfielders participate in their respective international contests (except Ryan Gravenberch). Wataru Endō captained Japan to an impressive 4-1 victory over Canada last Friday, in a very solid outing. On the following Tuesday, the former Stuttgart man played once more at the Noevir Stadium Kobe in Japan, before heading back to Liverpool with another victory under his belt. This is an energetic and eager defensive asset that has played only 393 minutes for his new club this season, despite having the tenacity and ball-winning prowess to immerse perfectly into a team of electrifying players. This weekend’s game could become a battle between two sets of players that are only just readjusting to life after their recent international travels, therefore, to throw the experienced Endō into the middle (with a clear agenda to hunt down the ball), could offer the ideal balance for this historic encounter.

So much hype has surrounded the starting few months (at LFC) of Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, and Ryan Gravenberch. These sensational footballing specimens are box office, renowned, and full of the type of ambition to bring the clubs fanbase to their feet. For me, it has almost become like the old England debate of the 2000’s, where Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, and Frank Lampard, were all squeezed into a midfield alongside their national team captain, David Beckham, despite the foursome lacking the defensive aptitude required to make the system work. Meanwhile, Michael Carrick sat idly by, watching, waiting, as games and tournaments were lost by a desire to get the best and most destructive players on the pitch. I would not directly compare our new Japanese player to Carrick’s level, but the logic and importance in both scenarios remain. Sometimes the vital skill-set required must override the want to excite the fanbase.

Who Would Be the Sensible Starting Defensive Midfielder Against Everton…?

It must be the 30-year-old, Wataru Endō, as someone who can offer a safety net and balance to what is still a gradually evolving new system of play. His starting inclusion would offer stability in front, assurance behind, whereas Trent Alexander Arnold could be installed as the deep-lying playmaker beside him. I was certain about what team I wanted for this game, just a few days ago, until the importance of the fixture turned my thinking around completely. Sometimes the less glamorous option is the route that must be taken, which can also enable the brilliance of others. This agonising and repetitive post-international 12.30 kick-off time needs to be considered; therefore, I would play a little more safely with my starting line-up, as this could be a critical juncture in the 2023/24 Premier League season.

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