Since Brendan Rodgers’ appointment at Liverpool, he has faced a number of difficult challenges. With a poor, aging squad at his disposal to begin with, his first major job was to discard as much of the deadwood inherited by old managers as possible, and replace accordingly.
The likes of Alberto Aquilani, Joe Cole and Andy Carroll who were left to him by Benitez, Hodgson and Dalglish respectively were soon out the door as they had no place in the squad. Amongst the possible exodus was a young Jordan Henderson, who was regarded as yet another “overpriced English player” who had no talent and no potential, by many of the (uneducated) rival supporters.
Unlike other underachieving players, Jordan Henderson had something different going for him; the desire to succeed.
From the moment he rejected Fulham’s proposal of a cash-plus-himself deal for Clint Dempsey to join Liverpool, he was taken under the wing of Brendan Rodgers and is now preparing for his best flight yet in the coming season.
Henderson’s transformation from a “waste of money” to Liverpool’s top appearing midfielder has been vital to the continuation of Steven Gerrard’s presence in Liverpool’s starting lineup. Whilst Gerrard undoubtedly still possesses the qualities of a world class midfield player, he no longer has the energy to maintain the rampaging, 200 yard double-runs from attack to defence and back again, that he’s been so famous for over the last decade (and then some). Henderson’s superb athleticism allows him to replace the energy which Steven Gerrard can no longer provide in the centre of the midfield, meaning Stevie is free to sit in between his centre backs and control the game’s tempo with his passing, rather than his dynamism.
Not only has Henderson replaced Gerrard’s work rate in that box-to-box role, he’s growing into the kind of player who is capable of replicating Gerrard’s quality. Now don’t get me wrong, no disrespect to Jordan, but i don’t think he’ll ever grow to the point where he’s considered on a par with Steven’s quality. However, he certainly has the work rate, desire, and potential to develop himself into an efficient, goal scoring midfielder with equally effective defensive qualities.
In the future, when Gerrard hangs up his boots – and yes, believe it or not fellow Liverpool fans, it will happen – i believe we may begin to see the best of Liverpool’s midfield. Thinking back to last year when the Reds played ‘Spurs away, we were so fluent, sharp, and balanced that it looked the best side we’d seen in a long time (and that side had Glen Johnson in it!). On a serious note, we were balanced; having a standout defensive midfielder (Lucas), someone to control the tempo (Allen), and a box to box workhorse in Henderson. Specialists in each of their respective games, this midfield trio provided freedom and support to a confident attack and allow for the creative football we’ve grown used to.
If Jordan continues his development at the rate he is, then he will be undeniably vital to Liverpool’s success. If he can add a killer instinct, as well as further consistency to his game, then he will effectively go down as Gerrard’s “replacement”, man for man. Brendan Rodgers says himself how vital Henderson is to the current midfield, having told a reporter on the last day of the season “I knew [the title was gone] when Jordan got sent off against Man City. I knew i couldn’t replace him”.
I think on a whole, Henderson will become – if he isn’t already considered by others as he is by me – a vital part to the midfield in everyone’s eyes. Most of the country has woken up and noticed his impressive development, as well as his exceptional energy which covers over the faults of others regularly in both Liverpool and England games.
The key to Liverpool’s success however, will be finding the correct balance to the midfield. Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Emre Can look to have years ahead of them in the squad, however Lucas seems like he may be off and Gerrard cannot go forever. Once these two leave, Rodgers will need to make sure he has someone even more capable to sit in between the two centre backs, a real tackler and distributor of the highest quality. Someone who exhibits the same talents as the likes of City’s Fernando or Fernandinho will be significantly important once Gerrard is unable to play week in, week out.
Having found two seemingly very talented full backs in Manquillo and Moreno, as well as now owning two of the Prem’s most talented centre backs in Lovren and Sakho, the team should be much tighter at the back. For Rodgers’ system to work most efficiently though, i believe the ever sought after defensive midfielder will be the key to the rest of the team’s balance and success. It would provide freedom in attack, slotting in to make a back three with the two other centre backs, allowing the wing backs to play higher up, the other two midfielders to control the game, which in turn allows the attacking trio the freedom needed to interchange positions and play as we have done so successfully over the past year particularly.
Is Jordan Henderson the key to Liverpool’s future success? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter @TBRFootball.