Wataru Endō & an Opportunity to Shine…

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Endō’s Transition to Liverpool

Last week saw Japan captain, Wataru Endō, produce his most complete performance yet, as he undertook ninety minutes against Austrian Bundesliga side, LASK. Some may say that the standard of the opposition makes the level of performance hard to measure, yet I was more impressed with how he excelled amongst and above many of his teammates, who are for the most part, established Liverpool players. By making the move from Stuttgart to Anfield in the most recent summer of change, the 30-year-old was taking a huge step up in footballing levels. It was always going to take time to immerse within a new country, new league, differing culture, and wildly different style of play.

This is a vastly experienced campaigner who was excelling within a German team that often struggled for possession of the ball and would have spent large periods of matches defending his deep back line. The patterns of offensive and defensive play at Liverpool Football Club, are almost the complete opposite to what the 55-cap Japan skipper would have been used to, whilst carrying out his duties at his former club. His predecessor, the formerly world class Fabinho, took more than three months of his maiden Premier League season, before he fully acclimatised to his new environment.

The adaptation of the elite operator was more structural, as the Brazilian had been playing in a double pivot whilst at Monaco. Though it is clear that the reds £19m summer acquisition is either a stop gap signing or back up piece, there is no denying that his skill set is beginning to translate into what Liverpool 2.0 most probably requires most, which is a shield for an overstretched defensive line.

Will The Christmas Period Offer an Opportunity for Wataru Endō…?

There is going to be an absolute requirement to see this specialist destroyer tasked into more and more games, as injuries and the hectic Christmas schedule avails itself. Fatigue and a lack of available assets means this manager will be able to call upon a player who excels at one thing, which is protecting the middle ground between defence and attack. I adore elite level defensive midfielders and am certain that in this upcoming winter window, the reds inconsistent recruitment team will identify and sign the player which could bring this promising side to a world class level.

To have conceded three goals against Fulham (this past weekend), more than shows a weakness when the reds are in transition. Attacks and progressive opposition play is being allowed to migrate into dangerous territory, with runners and free men able to ghost into good positions. An aggressive and intelligent ball winning destroyer like Fabinho or Javier Mascherano of old, would routinely take such opportunities away from the opponent, before danger could even enter their defensive third. Despite there being a clear ceiling to how good Wataru Endō can be, I sense that he can complement his club immensely over the coming weeks and months.

I am disheartened that he will be heading to the Asia Cup (in a month’s time), therefore, my desire is to see him play as much as possible before that time, thereby allowing respite to his more offensive teammates. At times against Fulham, the strategy and volume of forward-thinking players was making the home system falter, which is why the Liverpool number three was ushered into the game in the latter stages, to offer balance and more space to others. To become overconfident and overly congested in the attacking zones, will cause overplaying, and create spaces in behind that can be exploited.

The specialist holding midfielder, such as our former Shonan Bellmare academy graduate, occupied a deeper zone when coming on, thus allowing him to unleash that wonderful strike at the weekend, as he entered the build-up unmarked. The notion that he is not good enough or offers little within this regeneration is laughable, as his bespoke skill set can combine with others and offer a much-needed shield within Liverpool’s cavalier endeavours. Though Wataru Endō’s stay may become a brief one season remedy, Jürgen Klopp must surely the value in his starting more games, especially as injured players start to fill the AXA medical room.

What Games Should Wataru Endō be Starting…?

The schedule below is what is upcoming in the final leg of 2023. I would like to see Wataru start every other game, starting with Sheffield United away. As the news of the Joel Matip injury takes shape, the need to involve peripheral squad members is now vital, with more issues certain to avail themselves.

6th December – Sheffield United – Away

9th December – Crystal Palace – Away

14th December – Union Saint-Gilloise – Away

17th December – Manchester United – Home

20th December – West Ham – Home (EFL Cup)

23rd December – Arsenal – Home

26th December – Burnley – Away

At the death of the most recent Fulham game, we saw the much coveted, João Palhinha, progress with the ball, only to be met with a ferocious ball winning challenge from Endō. That is the kind of aggression this team sometimes lacks and so desperately needs.

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