There will not be a single football fan or a football pundit that will disagree on the fact that Liverpool are a phenomenal football side. Brain Clough states that in order to have to a big footballing team, your team must have a big epithet which states that no player within a footballing unit is bigger than the team or the club they play for. Additionally, the player who should be center of all the attention should be the captain of the team who usually guides you through the matches.
However, in case of Liverpool, the situation is completely contrasting. Their current captain Jordan Henderson has gone through situations in his Liverpool career which cannot be termed anything but a roller coaster.
So what happened for the current England and Liverpool captain? How can a player who was termed to be the first casualty when Liverpool manager took charge of Liverpool is now “the first name on the team sheet”. We run it down for you.
It was the season of 2011/12 when Liverpool bought an English teenager for £20m from Sunderland. His first appearance came against his former side in a 1-1 draw where he played a 30-minute cameo and received a mixed ovation from his former fans.
As the Liverpool side struggled to mount a title challenge against the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, the Englishman was dubbed as one of the worst Liverpool signings in recent years according to many sporting panels. It was the end of the 2014/15 season, Steven Gerrard was set to retire from Liverpool and the captaincy was left vacant. When the captain’s armband fell into the steps of the former Sunderland midfielder, the mockery rose to impossible heights as the captain’s role was described as one of the biggest “downgrades in Premier League history”
The final year of Steven Gerrard and captaincy
The 2014/15 season, even though brought great goals from the Englishman, especially the one against Manchester City, was a poor season for Henderson and Liverpool as they lost out on Champions League spots to Manchester United and could not move into the knock out stages of the Champions League.
Even though the stats may show that he was very prolific, it wasn’t the case because Liverpool’s midfielder had no specific position to start consistently. The lack of stability within the midfield showed that Henderson was getting deployed in multiple areas which brought inconsistencies within his performance.
As we can clearly see that in the Premier League seasons between 2013 till 2016, Jordan Henderson’s unstable role resulted in him deploy multiple roles within the Liverpool side as inconsistencies within his performances brought criticism upon him. Additionally, his performances in England showed no signs of improvement either.
However, things changed once Jurgen Klopp took charge of Liverpool not just for Henderson but also for the club.
Transformation under Jurgen Klopp
The most important thing which started the resurgence of Jordan Henderson was the fact that he was able to find a suitable role under the German manager. He was getting played more in the defensive side of things alongside Fabinho or the role which Rakitic used to play for Barcelona i.e. Box To Box where he was highly impactful in the ball recovery and creating chances for the formidable front trio of Sadio Mane, Mohammad Salah and Roberto Firmino.
People may argue that Henderson is less involved in the advanced areas in 2019/20 as compared to his initial years. However, sometimes the most important thing within a football player is to understand the basic things of the game. Jordan Henderson these days is no more a player who will be deployed to score Steven Gerrard-Esque goals from range, nor he is a N’Golo Kante-Esque figure in which his responsibility is to shield the defense and dictate his game through tackles. With the emergence of Fabinho and Wijnaldum within the Liverpool team, Henderson’s main role within the team is to blend the midfield of these both and rely on ball recoveries and interceptions and create chances for his attacking trio to win them the games. His main attacking pass was the diagonal pass to Sadio Mane when he is not pressed by the opposition.
His crucial aspect in the defensive side of things can be clearly stated through the fact that he has improved from 1.4 Tackles per 90 minutes (2018/19) to 2.2 Tackles per 90 minutes (2019/20) as well as 0.9 interceptions per 90 minutes (2018/19) to 1 interception per 90 minutes (2019/20). His defensive attributes have been given a rating of 7.20 rating this season, his highest in the last 3 years.
No wonder the only Premier League game they lost this season against Watford was when he was injured and Watford strikers had freedom to operate in their home stadium.
Casemiro is a formidable defensive midfielder as he has been integral to the 3 Champions League title wins for Real Madrid. However, even he has poor statistics in the advanced areas as he has 0.08 assists per 90 minutes as compared to 0.24 for the English captain. Additionally, Casemiro has only generated 0.37 key passes per 90 minutes as compared to 1.23 key passes for Jordan Henderson. This shows that Englishman from being a “downgrade to Steven Gerrard” is now battling with the best defensive midfielders in the world.
Jordan Henderson is now a player who is one of the main reasons why Liverpool will win the Premier League for the first time in 30 years. Additionally, he is the fifth Liverpool captain to win the Champions League with Liverpool, the club’s sixth overall.
It just shows that sometimes to be the best footballer at the club or to be the captain of the side, you don’t need to be the most skillful player in the world or a player with a massive fan following. Sometimes all you need is to have a complete understanding concerning your role in a footballing side and the basic things of the game and if your quality shows up one day, it will make a difference.