Amidst a disappointing season for Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, rumours have intensified over his future at the club come the end of the season. Jurgen Klopp’s comments following Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat against Southampton have resulted in reports that Henderson could be one of the players to be shipped out in the summer to fund a summer of change for the Reds.
Henderson had a poor start to his Liverpool career after joining from Sunderland in 2011 for roughly £20million. Eyebrows were raised over the significant fee attached to the midfielder, and fans questioned whether Henderson could make the step up from Sunderland to a team targeting trophies. Therefore, he is not unaccustomed to fighting misconceptions about his ability and importance to the side.
Role in 2013/14
While many fans have pointed to the damaging defeat against Chelsea as the reason Liverpool missed out on the title, Henderson’s red card against Manchester City on April 13th can be attributed to their subsequent shortcomings. Following his suspension, Liverpool recorded a very nervy win against Norwich before their disappointing home defeat to Jose Mourinho’s side, and a shocking 3-3 draw to Palace which was the final nail in the coffin, putting the Premier League title out of Liverpool’s reach.
Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez may have rightly stolen the headlines for their impressive performances in front of goal, but Jordan Henderson was a vital piece of the puzzle for Liverpool in the 2013/14 season. The Reds won 68% of their games with him in the side, compared to only 33% without him. His performances that season won many Liverpool fans over and kick started his Anfield career.
The 25 year olds energy in the middle of the park has always been his biggest asset but Liverpool arguably already get that from Emre Can, who has established himself as an important member of the side under Klopp. As a result, Henderson now finds himself back in familiar territory with fans questioning what he adds to the side.
Importance to Liverpool
Henderson is not the most gifted player ever to grace the Premier League, and his style isn’t one full of tricks and flicks, but his energy and dynamism in midfield have proved vital for Liverpool in recent years, and his importance is greatly understated. Despite having a poor season for Liverpool thus far, given his injury concerns, Liverpool have got wins in 60% of games involving Henderson. Without their captain, the Reds have won just 21.4% of their games. And yet, the ex-Sunderland man has been heavily criticised this campaign.
While Jordan Henderson clearly doesn’t have the all-round influence of Steven Gerrard, he still remains an important part of the side. His impact is greatly understated due to his role as a deep lying midfielder, allowing the likes of Coutinho and Firmino to produce the moments of quality and steal the headlines while he spreads the play and gets the attack moving. Since the beginning of the 2013/14 season, no English player has recorded more assists in the Premier League than Henderson, reflecting the role he plays in the side in terms of creativity.
Improvement Still Needed
While Henderson has certainly developed as a player since his big money move to Anfield, he still has a lot of work to do to prove his future lies with Liverpool. The 25 year old lacks the ability to shine at the very top of the Premier League and can often struggle to make a telling impact on matches, looking rigid in the middle. Furthermore, his injury issues have hindered his ability to play week in week out, meaning Liverpool can no longer rely on their captain to feature.
Liverpool are expected to delve heavily into the transfer market this summer as Jurgen Klopp looks to improve upon the personnel he has at his disposal and thus Henderson may suffer. When you compare Henderson to some of the names the Reds have been linked with, such as IIkay Gundogan, there is no contest in terms of ability and the harsh reality is, if Liverpool are to challenge for the title and in Europe, they need that step up in quality.
For me, the real issue at the moment with regards to Jordan Henderson is his captaincy. He doesn’t strike me as the type of player who can galvanise the side and drag them back into games, as Steven Gerrard often did in his time at the club.
With the armband comes a great deal of pressure and responsibility, not least given that he follows the irreplaceable void left by Steven Gerrard. As a result, Henderson seems to have become a more one dimensional player, showcasing a lot less freedom than he did in the 2013/14 season where his mazy runs were a continual feature of Liverpool’s attack.
Many Liverpool fans have questioned whether he has what it takes to be a leader, and while his energy and work rate make him a model for younger players, there are other players in the side that seem to suit the role more naturally than he – Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho for example.
The statistics show that Henderson remains an important player for Liverpool and when he isn’t in the side, they miss his energy and drive. Therefore, shipping Henderson out in the summer seems like a mistake that Liverpool would be wise not to make. With rivals such as Manchester City and Tottenham reportedly interest, the Reds may be left to rue their decision if he is moved on at the end of the season.
Liverpool supporters have been heavily critical of Jordan Henderson’s performances this season and while he has failed to hit the heights of the 2013/14 season, he has still played his part since Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield. His work-rate will continue to be a vital asset to the side and a release from the pressure of being Liverpool captain could see a return to Henderson of two seasons ago.
More and more players at Liverpool are going to come under the spotlight amidst a summer of change at the club, and while there are certainly upgrades to be made on Henderson, it doesn’t necessarily mean the doors are closing on his career with the Reds.