Wataru Endō: The Key to Liverpool’s Season Turnaround

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The Return of Wataru Endō: A Boost for Liverpool’s Title Hopes

Vital Reinforcement: Endō’s Timely Comeback

After elimination from the 2024 Asia Cup, the captain of Japan, Wataru Endō, immediately made moves to return to Merseyside, with his first training session being undertaken this past Monday. The 30-year-old’s reintroduction to the Liverpool squad coincides with the news that the Hungarian skipper, Dominik Szoboszlai, will be sidelined for the remainder of the month, after sustaining an as-yet-undetermined injury. Though the Christmas and New Year’s period proved largely fruitful (in taking Liverpool top of the table), it was only last Sunday that the Reds fanbase saw a tired and overplayed team outgunned and well-beaten by Arsenal. The varying factors and hectic schedule leading into that game (at the Emirates), meant the team which had taken Chelsea apart (4-1) just days prior, was unable to reproduce the same determined effort when travelling to North London. Upon reflection, that poor performance was inevitable and points to the requirement of more consistent and workmanlike assets, especially in the wake of Szoboszlai’s absence, someone who was unavailable for the 3-1 defeat.

Addressing Szoboszlai’s Absence: Strategic Adjustments

My initial thought was to merely see Trent Alexander Arnold thrust into the right centre midfield position, thereby allowing Conor Bradley or Joe Gomez to operate at right back. In theory, that endeavour is something that possesses long-term gains, however, the short-term reality is that the vice-captain has played exclusively as the hybrid player for almost a year, to an extremely high level. The tactical and off-ball requirements will take time to master, in what would be a new enterprise that could scupper his ability to perform. To expect a novice 20-year-old (Bradley), or Joe Gomez to find a rhythm with a player that would be finding his positional feet, may cause more confusion than gains. The fact also remains, that Andy Robertson may not be in a physical position to come straight back into the elite starting eleven (at left back), after several months on the treatment table. I would say that the most alarming aspect of such a decision would be having to move multiple players around the board, to facilitate the loss of one key asset. The dilemma points to the absolute quality and importance of the Reds brilliant number 8, which is something that must be navigated with care.

Strategic Formation: Endō’s Role in Midfield

The correct call would be to usher the former Stuttgart midfielder, Wataru Endō, into the defensive midfield position, thereby allowing Alexi Mac Allister and Curtis Jones to occupy the two flanking roles. That initiative would allow Trent Alexander and Conor Bradley to rotate as required (at right back), as the various upcoming games create differing needs for the hybrid or conventional role. Joe Gomez could then continue his brilliant stint as the left-sided fullback, as the Scotland captain, Andy Robertson, slowly brings his match fitness up to the required level.

Leveraging Endō’s Impact: Towards Premier League Glory

Before the loss of Wataru Endō (to the January Asia Cup), the form of the enforcer was close to superb, as the Argentina midfielder, Alexis Mac Allister, recovered from a knee injury. It has only been in the last month or so that the former Brighton man has truly shone as that holding player, which is something that he can now take into a slightly more advanced position. To imagine that logical thinking as the answer to Dominik’s absence would only increase the tenacity levels, from that which was offered at the weekend. The Ryan Gravenberch experiment is still very much in debate, as he continues to show a lack of fight and positioning when not in possession. His role should be that of a backup and substitute piece, who can immerse himself into the FA Cup and Europa League competitions. The absolute best of the best must be facilitated into a run at the 2023/24 Premier League title, as the end-of-season aims above all else. Though there were genuine and valid concerns surrounding the summer signing of Wataru Endō, those doubts are surely now redundant. In this period where consistency and work rate are needed more than ever, I believe that the outgoing German manager, Jürgen Klopp, will look to those he can instruct and trust to have those orders carried out.

Wataru Endō should be put straight into the starting lineup on Saturday, as Burnley are set to visit Anfield. The loss of power and energy requires adequate replenishment, which is something that has this week arrived back home.

Steven Smith

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