Even in an unfavourable role, Jordan Henderson was still a cut above his Liverpool teammates during the 1-0 defeat against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Henderson, 30, has been forced to cover in central defence in his previous five Premier League matches. In fact, he hasn’t been utilised in his natural midfield role since the 0-0 draw with Newcastle on December 30.
A return to his preferred position, then, cannot come soon enough, especially with Manchester City on the horizon.
Too great a void to fill
Without Henderson marshalling the midfield, Liverpool lack urgency and intensity in their build-up play. On too many occasions against Brighton, there wasn’t enough bite or innovation to find a way through a stubborn backline.
Games against Brighton, West Brom, Newcastle and Fulham have yielded just four points out of a possible 18. Considering we are talking about the reigning champions of England, this simply isn’t good enough.
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No criticism can fall at the feet of Jordan Henderson or Nat Phillips, either. However, with two new centre-backs waiting in the wings, Klopp must decide when is the right time to integrate both deadline-day signings.
How do Liverpool combat Henderson problem?
Ozan Kabak represents the best solution to getting Henderson and Fabinho out of defence. The 20-year-old Turkey international’s top-flight experience with Schalke and Stuttgart will be key in restoring the midfield dynamic.
Ironically, Liverpool have lost just two Premier League matches in the previous two seasons in-which Henderson has started in his naturally suited role – both of which were against Manchester City (January 2019 and July 2020), who they play on Sunday.
However, whether Klopp is prepared to hand Kabak his Liverpool debut against the Premier League’s leading opponent, however, remains to be seen. It would certainly represent the ultimate baptism of fire.
One thing is for certain, though, and that is that Henderson cannot remain as a make-shift defender for much longer. Liverpool have surrendered too many points in recent weeks to keep their talismanic skipper away from the real action.