Enrique: We all have to improve
Liverpool defender Jose Enrique believes the players have to take their share of responsibility for poor results and not hide behind manager Kenny Dalglish. Five defeats in their last six Premier League matches have ruled out any chance of them making a last-ditch bid for UEFA Champions League qualification.
The Reds trail fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by 13 points with eight matches remaining, and apart from the slightly unedifying task of keeping the likes of Sunderland, Everton, Swansea City and Norwich City at bay, their only remaining realistic target is the FA Cup in which they are in the semi-final.
Dalglish has found his job questioned in recent weeks and the team was booed off at a rapidly-emptying Anfield after a tenth defeat of the season against Wigan Athletic on Saturday. The Scot has defended his team almost without question, the 3-1 defeat at struggling Bolton Wanderers in January the exception, and that has led to more criticism coming his way.
But Enrique said Dalglish was taking the flak on their behalf and the squad need to look at their own performances and address the situation. "The manager takes pressure for us and of course that is good," said the Spaniard. "But the truth is, when we make mistakes or have a bad game, we know where the mistakes come from.
Of course I want to do my best for the team and for Liverpool first, but also for the manager because he signed me.
"Who plays the games? The players. Who has to win them? The players too. The players are frustrated just the same (as the fans). We have played good football in many games but against Wigan we didn't deserve to win."
Enrique was one of seven signings brought in by Dalglish in the summer and was the most consistent of those arrivals until recently, when even his performances have looked shaky. Others have not escaped so lightly with the likes of midfielders Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, brought in for a combined £36 million, and Charlie Adam all failing to impress in their first season on Merseyside.
Andy Carroll, one of Dalglish's first signings when he took over for a second spell in January 2011, has also failed to live up to his £35 million price tag. In fact, only Carroll's fellow January arrival Luis Suarez, August free transfer Craig Bellamy and, to a lesser degree, Enrique have enjoyed any real joy at Anfield.
It has left many questioning Dalglish's transfer choices, but left-back Enrique is naturally keen to repay Dalglish for bringing him to Anfield from Newcastle United. "I am really grateful to him," said the 26-year-old. "Of course I want to do my best for the team and for Liverpool first, but also for the manager because he signed me."
The Spaniard believes the team with all their new recruits may still require more time to gel despite being together for eight months, but accepts seventh place in the table is not the standard expected. Even if Liverpool can add to their Carling Cup triumph, which ended a six-year trophy drought, with another piece of silverware criticism will still remain over their league form.
"In the cups we are doing well. Liverpool went many years without winning something and already we have one cup and we are playing for another one," he said. "In the league I think we deserve more than where we are now, but the truth is we are in seventh position. This team is in production; the owners have signed young players. I think we have a really good squad already but of course we have to improve - everyone."