How exactly does Jordan Henderson fit into the tactics at Liverpool? We have a look at the Reds could reportedly move their captain on.
Liverpool could sell Jordan Henderson this summer. The Daily Mail, among others, claims that to be the case as his contract enters a strange stage.
The captain has two more years left on his deal but talks over a new one have stalled. Henderson wants more long-term security but Liverpool won’t give him it – and they could sell in order to avoid a Gini Wijnaldum-type situation.
We think that would be a disastrous move. One reason for that is Henderson’s effect on the Liverpool team as a player. But why is that?
We try to explain exactly how Jordan Henderson fits into Liverpool’s tactics.
Jordan Henderson in Liverpool’s tactics
Jurgen Klopp sets his team up in a 4-3-3 formation virtually every week. Injuries can sometimes shake that up but for 95% of the season, it’s 4-3-3.
That 4-3-3 relies heavily on moving parts. Roberto Firmino is perhaps the best way to illustrate that.
The Brazilian plays as a centre-forward but really plays like a no.10. In other words, he’s a False 9. Firmino can push forward in a traditional role but spends much of his game drifting around into other spaces.
When he drops deep, the wingers – Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – can cut inside. Defenders usually follow Firmino and that creates space inside for wide players to use.
And when the wingers do cut in, the full-backs have the entire flank to move into. They can push forward and do damage as wide players.
It means Firmino operates as the link between midfield and attack, removing the need for a true playmaker in midfield. But this is just one scenario.
There are countless others. If Firmino simply moves wide, for instance, the full-back doesn’t have space to push on and thus sits a little deeper. That leaves a gap in the middle, though, and that’s when the midfield can come in.
Liverpool rely on their midfielders to plug gaps. There’s a gap in midfield? Then the central players can push into it and link with the forwards. The full-backs have pushed on? Then the centre-mids drift across to cover behind them.
They adapt, keep the team solid, and make sure the XI covers all of the pitch. But that’s just with movement.
Klopp also relies on his midfielders to completely change their game at times. He needs them to dominate possession and remain patient against smaller teams. But they must also be able to sit very deep and play on the counter against someone like Manchester City.
They’ve got to press high like mad in most games but also have the wherewithal to remain disciplined when soaking up pressure. Remarkably few players can do all of this.
Klopp doesn’t want specialised role players – he wants all-around centre-midfielders who can do a bit of everything. And they’ve also got to have the energy to press and cover the pitch.
Henderson and Wijnaldum were both a dream come true, then. They’re elite all-around midfielders who pulled this all off.
But Henderson also has a secondary role as captain. He’s got to organise all of these moving parts and make sure everyone is where they should be.
It’s no surprise, then, that Liverpool’s record with Henderson in midfield is so good. They’ve lost just two Premier League games since January 2019 with him starting in midfield – both away at City, with one of those fixtures coming the day after the title was sealed.
Liverpool are prone to falling apart when he’s not there, too. Both the 3-0 defeat at Watford and the 7-2 against Aston Villa were anomalies where the Reds collapsed into disorganization. Henderson missed both games through injury.
Liverpool wouldn’t just lose a key player by selling Henderson. They’d lose arguably their most important. Honestly, this piece could be twice as long in trying to explain everything he does in a game but we’ve tried (failed) to keep it short.
So we’ll say it one more time – selling Henderson would be a huge mistake.