How has Jurgen Klopp transformed Jordan Henderson since his arrival at Liverpool?
After a dismal end to a promising season, which saw Jurgen Klopp’s men reach the Capital One Cup and Europa League finals, the future looked bleak for Jordan Henderson as club captain. Having struggled to fill the sizeable gap left by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, many Kopites were suggesting that the task of captaining a club of that size, was too much for him. As a player that had produced his best work alongside the former captain, rather than instead of him, it was hard to see how the Reds skipper had risen to the challenge in his debut season as captain.
After a joint lowest Premier League finish of 8th, it would’ve been easy for Klopp to stamp his authority by deciding to change his captain, which wouldn’t of come as a surprise to many supporters. The Reds fans have tirelessly questioned his ability, not only as a player but also as a leader of one of the biggest clubs in England, and they did have good basis to do so. An injury plagued season really halted him putting a marker down in his first full season as the main man, and it really influenced the fans thoughts. However, the importance of Henderson has been hugely underestimated amongst an array of talent at Anfield. Henderson provides a platform where he allows Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Saido Mane the freedom to express themselves in the final third, due to his unquestionable discipline and his understanding of his role in the team.
With the emergence of the strong and talented German, Emre Can, some considered the skipper to be surplus to requirements, and was rumoured to be heading to Tottenham at the end of last season. The deal didn’t occur and Henderson has not looked back since. So far this season, he has made the most passes in the Premier League so far this season, with 324. An 88% pass completion record, on top of that, and an average pass length of 20m, is very good going amongst a team littered with top talents.
Jurgen Klopp has made no secret of how much he appreciates his club captain. He loves high pressing players, people who work hard for the team and it’s easy to see why the former Sunderland man has flourished. Klopp is an emotional, confidence boosting manager who instills belief in all of his players due to his fantastic man-management skills. After the sudden sacking of Brendan Rodgers 11 months ago, the appointment of the German head coach couldn’t have pleased many more than Henderson himself.
He has risen to a challenge that has been set, and you could tell his celebration after his fantastic goal against Chelsea, the confidence he now has to even try that is supreme. Would that have happened under Brendan Rodgers? I don’t think so, but down to Klopp’s confidence in him as a player and a captain, his performances and his belief has rose immensely under the German. Looking back, things could have turned out very differently for Henderson, who almost joined Fulham as a make-weight for Clint Dempsey, and it just shows that ‘persistence pays’ in the famous words of LFCTV commentator John Bradley.
Embellishing a manager’s chosen style of play, will always put you in the good books of the boss. But, Liverpool’s captain has not only done that, but he’s become the face of it. His harrying and hassling, and his education of his new found role as a number 6, really has endeared him to the heart of the fans. To the average fan, his position change is a minuscule difference to where he played last season to now, but it isn’t. Understanding that he is now the protection for the defence, and that he will be on the ball a lot more, dictating and switching play and being the anchor of a team that has gone far and above the average expectations, has added a whole new dimension to how he sees and plays the game.
Henderson has and always will divide opinion, he’s not the most technically gifted player, but his desire and his passion cannot be matched by many and it’s difficult to argue that under one of the most inspiring manager that England has ever seen, that he won’t keep improving.
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