Sanjay Nair discusses whether or not Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has a long-term future at the club after recent weeks spiked debate over his suitability to playing under Jurgen Klopp
There is always a player of two at every club that have a polarizing effect amongs fans.
Those who divide opinion on their standing at their respective club based on what they contribute every week.
Liverpool Football Club have always had their fair share of such players in the past and with the vision of Jürgen Klopp taking shape in a huge way over the past two seasons, it is rather painful, yet not difficult to understand, Jordan Henderson falling into that particular category.
Fighting spirit simply not good enough to warrant a place
Henderson, who despite not being from Liverpool, always seems to effuse every bit of the ‘Scouse’ fighting spirit whether on the field or off it. His connection with fans and club during matches and interviews is unmistakably everything that you would want in a player and, more importantly, club captain.
But with the arrival of obviously better-skilled players in a similar role such as Georginio Wijnaldum, Naby Keïta, Fabinho along with the indomitable James Milner, the opportunities for Hendo are dwindling, barring an injury crisis.
Hendo the fighter is a great asset to have, no doubt. But on a pure footballing level, the other options available to Klopp add far greater value to the team, both in attack and defence.
Captaincy – no longer a given
Jordan Henderson was always seen as the natural heir to Steven Gerrard as club captain. His aggression and leadership qualities were just what Liverpool needed during the post-Gerrard phase and he has been a true servant proving worthy of the treasured arm-band.
However, the club has moved ahead in leaps and bounds over the past year. A year in which Henderson’s role, to be extremely harsh on the guy, has become increasingly insignificant.
In Virgil van Dijk, we have a player possessing both controlled aggression and outstanding leadership qualities. It should not be long before the captaincy is given to him on a permanent basis.
Andy Robertson, who is captaining his national side, Wijnaldum and another talented youngster touted as a future captain, Trent Alexander-Arnold, are all better long-term prospects as candidates if they are still around at the club.
If not anything, there is always good ol’ Milly, who for all we know, looks like he will play till 50 and beyond with the same gusto, to step in temporarily.
Statistics not his best ally
Whatever his assigned role is on the field and in the locker room, if one were to look at the statistics, Henderson’s does not really make pretty reading off late. Almost completely shot-shy, goals from Henderson are never to be expected, the screamer at Chelsea two seasons ago more an aberration than anything else.
Four goals, eight assists, a cross accuracy of around 25% and a grand total of just six ‘big chances created’ over a three-season period and you just know this is not a player who is looking to shake up defences or open up spaces moving forward.
Defensively as well, the numbers don’t seem to suggest he provides excellent cover at the back. A tackling rate of just around 70%, combined with barely two interceptions per game and less than 30% success at 50/50 battles over the same period are the most glaring numbers going against Hendo in this area.
Sometimes, some players are meant only for certain phases in a club’s history. As critical they may seem in the beginning, it becomes apparent that as time passes and the club changes direction, there will be a time when both player and club need to revisit plans and take a new course of action regarding their respective futures.
As things stand, the end of the season irrespective of results might, just might be that time for Liverpool and Jordan Henderson to do that.