Jack Hallows looks at our captain – Jordan Henderson – and why he shouldn’t be so unfairly scrutinised as often as he is.
Jordan Henderson, our captain. He’s probably the most divisive player in this current Liverpool team right now but, for me, at least 80% of the criticism he receives is entirely undeserved. The Englishman is often scrutinised by fans of both Liverpool and rival clubs that any mistake he makes, no matter how small, is blown entirely out of proportion. He’s not Steven Gerrard, so it’s time to let those comparisons go.
Henderson is a hugely important player in Jurgen Klopp’s current set up – not only because he’s the skipper. The Englishman is the pendulum between defence and attack and has been excelling in his newfound reinvention of the ‘number 6′ role. While fans may sit and cry for long, raking, diagonal balls forward whenever he gets the ball, Klopp’s system doesn’t call for that. Henderson job is either to play it forward into space when he has a runner available or keep play ticking over. He very rarely runs with the ball and is always available for a pass between the centre backs or his midfield partners and in simple terms, is there to keep the ball moving.
That’s not to say he isn’t capable of super passes forward, of course he is. The man’s got four assists this season – look at those gorgeous passes to Origi and Firmino against Bournemouth and Palace – and his long balls from deep have also set Liverpool on their way to creating goals – remember the Leicester game? He has it in his locker but there is a time for every kind of pass and while it’s not always the most thrilling thing to watch seeing someone play the ball out to their full backs or play one-twos with their midfield partners to create space, it’s vital for how this side works.
When teams sit in deep against the Reds, long balls over the top are never going to work, especially when the Reds first choice front three don’t boast much height, space is needed and defenders need to be drawn out of position. If you’re still a doubter who just wants simple facts because you think I can’t supply you with them, well Henderson has completed 1339 passes in the league this season and only 27% of those have been backwards or sideways. What have you got to say to that?
He’s also been a goal threat despite playing so deep and not really getting in or around the box too often. His goal against Chelsea was an utterly unbelievable strike while when West Ham visited Anfield he was incredibly unlucky not to score another banger from his 30-yard piledriver as only the outstretched finger tips of Randolph denied him the chance to be the hero on the day.
Then there’s the defensive side of his game. Last season Henderson was awful with picking up cards. It seemed every time he made a challenge he was looking at getting yellow carded or at very least a warning. This season, however, while he’s still picked up cards when he’s felt he’s had to make a rash challenge to prevent a goal scoring chance, his defensive work has been much more measured. He’s made an impressive 31 interceptions – highlighting how well he reads the game – and has completed 50 tackles – more than a lot of central defenders in the Premier League this season.
Make what you will of Jordan Henderson but a lot of his criticisms, this season in particular, have been unjust. He isn’t Steven Gerrard, he never will be, so let it go. He’s Jordan Henderson, he’s our captain and he’s playing bloody well right now. Time to get behind him.
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