Nicholas Uota discusses the various candidates for Liverpool’s captaincy with Jordan Henderson’s occupancy of the role rather dubious.
An issue that has plagued Liverpool for the past two years – who should be captain? The captaincy has lacked identity since the beloved Steven Gerrard was not deemed fit to play every match. But what exactly does identity mean in this situation? It means exactly what you think it means, in the past two seasons, all Liverpool have to show is two mediocre mid table finishes, and a handful of cup finals.
This would be acceptable with a “small club mentality” – a phrase that generalizes teams without European or title aspirations. Liverpool has endured two average seasons, and it seems the players are completely content with that. It is these players that have been able to wear the Liverpool badge across their chests and settle for mediocrity. These men, need to be reminded of the significance of the club and its supporters, and Jürgen Klopp cannot do it alone.
There are several criteria that must be addressed when picking a captain, and it is about finding the right balance. He must be a leader without being a dictator. He needs to have passion, but also make correct judgement decisions under pressure. Essentially, the captain is someone that the team can rally around when losing. It’s easier to play well while your team is winning, but can your team turn to the captain in desperate situations?
In order to have a true leader on the field, all his teammates must respect and listen to him, similarly to how the players treat the manager. The manager also takes into account what the captain has to say. At the same time, the captain earns respect by dedicating himself to the team and whatever objective they are all striving for.
A balance of poise and passion is necessary for a captain at the most elite level. When the captain displays this passion, it excites the fans and teammates and brings them further into the game. However, the captain must also not panic when things go wrong. If the other players see the captain, their focal point, has lost hope, then they will be more inclined to do the same.
The only thing that hasn’t been discussed as part of the captaincy is the player’s skill. Ideally, the best player on the pitch would also be the best leader, but it usually doesn’t work out that way. The captain doesn’t need to be the best, but he does need to be consistent. He needs to be consistent so that he can be trusted so other players just play their natural game. Just like a good manager, a good captain will make the players around him feel comfortable.
Liverpool has not had a captain like Gerrard, meaning he held the position for 12 years, ever. Gerrard was also a very unique player, and I do not think his skill set is common in players nowadays. Therefore, instead of looking at the captain as “someone who will not be as good as Gerrard”, think of him as a new dynamic player who can use the captaincy to mature and develop into a fearless leader.
There have been a handful of players to wear the armband since Stevie departed. Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Mamadou Sakho, and Jon Flanagan are four who were blessed with the opportunity. Next season will definitely see some experimenting from Klopp in the captain position, and hopefully he can find the right fit.
Milner is one of my favorite players for his attitude and inherent skill on the pitch. If you carefully watch him on the ball, he does clever step-overs and subtle feints to throw off defenders. He also has the solidarity attitude, anything to help the team win. However, watching Milner is great but he lacks the passion. He goes out there and performs because it’s his profession. At the end of the day, he is a skilled, versatile player but not a true captain.
The fearless, the bold, the controversial, Mamadou Sakho. He was a rock at the back, especially when he and Lovren formed the partnership that guided Liverpool through the Europa League. Sakho checks off every criteria, and with the most blocks per game out of any Liverpool defender he has proven he will put his body on the line for his team. Once his UEFA ban dilemma blows over, he will make a fine candidate.
Emre Can. The last of the players, the youngest, and my pick for the armband is the dynamic German midfielder. He has so much room to grow, and the poise and maturity of a much older player. In the Dortmund game at Anfield, his run from a deep position happened because he wanted to get involved and make a difference. The pass then to Origi was inch perfect, and suddenly, a hope-inspired comeback was mounted.
Simon Mignolet – Are you serious? How would a keeper who can’t take control of his own box be able to control an entire team?
There are still many players left in the squad that could become captain. Joel Matip is a fearsome center half with a soft dribbling touch. Jon Flanagan is a homegrown scouser that could reach into the hearts of the fans. Maybe giving Daniel Sturridge the armband would bring him consistency, who knows?
It is difficult to know what Klopp is going to do or even what he wants in a captain. He will make the right decision for Liverpool and find the player who will wear the armband with pride.
Featured Image – This is Anfield