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It’s true what they say you know.
Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
I’ve been pretty vocal in the past about my concerns surrounding Jordan Henderson operating in the number 6 role for Liverpool but it’s clear as day he’s been missed in recent matches.
In games against Sunderland, Plymouth (admittedly with a shadow starting XI) and Southampton the midfield have looked lethargic, pedestrian and predictable. The complete opposite of what we’ve come to expect from a Jurgen Klopp midfield who blitzed Arsenal at the Emirates, dominated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and ran riot against countless teams at Anfield. The ball circulation in midfield appears to be slower, the tempo has disappeared and the engine room is running on fumes.
It’s a lot more complex than just saying “oh we’ve missed Jordan Henderson” but at the same time, we have.
I still have reservations about how well he does when pressed in deep areas but he’s much more confident there now than he was at the start of the season. Credit to both the player and the manager for that.
We’ve missed his energy at the heart of the midfield and we’ve missed how quickly he covers the ground to thwart attacks. We’ve also missed how he uses the ball. Yes, he can be too safe with his passes and isn’t progressive enough for my liking and yes, sometimes it appears as though he has tunnel vision but he does keep the ball moving.
More importantly, we’re effective with him playing.
It’s the worst time to be stuck in a midfield rut with a trip to Old Trafford on the horizon. Jose Mourinho appears to have figured out what his most functional midfield three is and worryingly for us, they look dominant.
The Emre Can Predicament
The culprit for the collapse in midfield, at least in the eyes of some fans, is Emre Can. Against Sunderland he was unfairly criticised but in matches against Plymouth and Southampton he’s struggled to deliver performances on par with those we’d seen earlier in the season.
He hasn’t been at his swashbuckling best but injuries have hampered his season and it’s important to remember he’s played a variety of roles in a system we’ve only really adapted this season. There’s a bedding in period. It’s also easy to forget he’s only just turned 23-years-old and at that age consistency comes with regular games in a set position, something he’s not been afforded this season.
Football fans lack patience and have a short-term memory. Many would gladly sell the German midfielder now with some even preferring Kevin Stewart and Lucas Leiva in the holding midfield role. But it’s not Can’s fault he isn’t Henderson. They’ve showed throughout this season they work well together in a midfield but in this specific system we’re reliant on the captain being there for it to function.
The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts
Many believe this current squad is the best in a long time but at the same time there are a few key positions which we gambled on. One was Henderson’s role. Which many, myself included, underestimated. In my defence I didn’t envisage Klopp setting us up in the system he did at the start of the year. But even then I opted to look at what Henderson couldn’t do as opposed to what he could do. I’m a glass half empty kind of person though.
He’s not perfect as an individual but he’s perfect for what we’ve needed him to be and it should be about the bigger picture at the end of the day.
While we’ve been
able to cover for the absences of making do without Philippe Coutinho and Joel Matip, as soon as Jordan Henderson was ruled out the team looked a little lost. That shows just how important he is and why without him we don’t look as though we can function.
Like Jenga and Kerplunk, remove the wrong piece and it all comes crashing down. You become overly reliant on one certain piece to keep the structure together and without it everything collapses. That’s what’s happened in the absence of Henderson coupled with the fact players look tired and lethargic.
Many people want a new signing but Henderson’s return could be that adrenaline shot that it looks like we so desperately need.