Jordan Henderson’s leadership qualities will be required more than ever as Liverpool prepare for their first fixture in the long-term absence of Virgil van Dijk.
The Reds have lost a gargantuan voice in the dressing room and Liverpool have to somehow fill the void. Henderson could be key in restoring belief back amongst the players.
As Georginio Wijnaldum stated during Tuesday evening’s pre-Ajax press conference, the players are understandably ‘devastated’ and well within their right to feel aggrieved following the incidents that were allowed to take place at the weekend.
This puts Henderson in a unique position as for the first time since January 2018, the Liverpool club-captain will have to adjust to life without the club’s other recognised voice on the pitch.
Given Henderson’s drive and willingness to take on more responsibilities for his team, this should enhance the skipper’s prospects of putting in a top performance, as he should be fired up to make a greater impact to compensate for such a loss.
Van Dijk may be Liverpool’s defensive bed-rock and the hallmark for consistency yet Henderson’s influence on the team in recent seasons has arguably been just as significant.
The England international has become the standard-bearer of this recent Liverpool machine and typifies the relentless drive that has seen the Reds clock up a combined 196 points over the previous two seasons – a quite ridiculous feat.
The effect of Henderson’s influence can be best showcased in his absence as opposed to his participation. Remarkably, in the four league matches, Liverpool have lost over the past 12 months, he has been present in just one of them (Manchester City (a) July 2020).
Without him, Liverpool have on occasion shown signs of complacency which could be argued if Henderson were in the team just wouldn’t have been accepted from the skipper.
You only have to look at the difference in performance levels between Aston Villa and Everton in recent weeks. Liverpool looked worryingly jaded and overwhelmed at Villa Park in the absence of Henderson while at Goodison Park, the Reds were utterly outstanding and the polar opposite of the team that surrendered so meekly during the humiliating 7-2 defeat.
Even Van Dijk was present for Liverpool’s biggest defeat in over 50 years which demonstrates life was far from perfect even before the towering Dutchman fell victim to a potentially season-ending injury setback against Everton.
There is no sugar coating the fact that Van Dijk’s ACL injury represents all of our worst nightmares, but what is just as worrying is the lack of faith showcased by the media regarding the mentality of this Liverpool team.
People really do have short memories as even during last season’s procession to the title, the Reds had to persistently combat a number of significant injury woes.
Liverpool lost Alisson Becker on the opening day of the season and subsequently missed the next 10 matches. Fabinho was in the form of his life before an ankle injury kept him on the sidelines for more than three months. Add that to the setbacks Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Joel Matip and Henderson have all had to overcome and it tells you that adversity is something Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ thrive to combat.
Indeed, it will difficult to fill the void left from a player who is comfortably the best in the world in his respective position, yet if there is one thing Klopp’s squad has showcased they aren’t lacking in recent years is mental resilience.