Jordan Henderson – Defensive Midfielder?

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With the season just around the corner many fans have started naming their ‘Dream XI’ for the season ahead. Sometimes you’ll see these though and think yeah that’d be boss on Football Manager or Fifa. This is real life though and you have to consider the tactics and the shape. In the last week or so I’ve started to see people mentioning Henderson as our defensive midfielder. At first I thought they wanted to deploy Henderson as a deep lying playmaker but I was wrong, they actually wanted to use him as a defensive midfielder.

In the modern game there are many variants and tweaks on the position. You can get a Lee Cattermole type defensive midfielder. You know the sort, kicks the lumps out of people, limited footballing ability and their main aim isn’t to break up play it’s to break the players. These are the stereotypical defensive midfielders for people when they look at that position but football has evolved and there are many types of defensive midfielders nowadays. I’ll briefly describe the roles but for a more in depth look at these listen to the AnfieldIndex Global podcast about the defensive midfield role.

DM Henderson

Ball winning midfielder

This is probably the more stereotypical defensive midfielder than people envisage when talking about this position. Their primary role is to do what the name states. Win the ball off the opposition before they get at your defence. This doesn’t mean you run around chasing the opponents like Mascherano used to do. It could be you’re positionally switched on and you cover the spaces and angles therefore winning the ball with interceptions or by pushing the opponents into spaces you want them in. If you were to associate it with a player it’d be Morgan Schniederlin.

Ball playing defensive midfielder

Defensive duties here are at a minimum but there are a new breed of defensive midfielders that merge this position and the one previously mentioned. The likes of Lucas Romero for example. He has the passing range of a deep lying play maker but the defensive midfielder abilities of Javier Mascherano. They all seem to have a snarl about them.

Defensive midfielder

This is probably a little harder to explain. It’s a player with limited responsibilities other than to shield the defence. He won’t roam from position like a ball winning midfielder and often sits in front of the centre backs or occasionally drops in between them to give them added numbers in that area. This is more of a Victor Wanyama/Maxime Gonalons type midfielder if you were to associate it with a player.

With this in mind I decided to take a look at Jordan Henderson as a potential defensive midfielder. What category would he fall into? At a push you’d say a he’d be a mix of ball playing defensive midfielder and a ball winning one. However with the latter comparison it’s worth noting Morgan Schniederlin had a proper defensive midfielder beside him which enabled him to chase the ball, Henderson wouldn’t have this in his role if he were to be played as the sole defensive midfielder.

I won’t compare the two as it’d be unfair but looking briefly at tackles won per 90 Henderson averages 1.70 which is low when you compare it to Schniederlin (3.25), Victor Wanyama (2.97) and Nemanja Matic (2.91). It’s a big increase in tackles you’re having to win per 90 to be hitting the numbers of the good defensive midfielders. Has our captain got that ability in him? More importantly do Liverpool have the time to persist with a player polishing his skills in a new position when the position in question is a key one? Could a rookie defensive midfielder be worse than not using one at all? If you’re pushing for top 4 you can’t really afford to have someone ‘doing a job’ in a specialist position, can you?

Not only would have a short term negative impact on the side but it’d also takeaway the strengths of a player who is nowhere near his peak. I’ve said it for many years but if Liverpool had a defensive midfielder we could see Jordan Henderson hitting double figures and that’s invaluable from a midfielder. He’s more like Frank Lampard with his runs from deep. His output in terms of goals and assists over the last few seasons has been superb and do Liverpool have the players to replace that from midfield if he’s played deeper? It’s very doubtful. Not only that but it also takes away from his famed high pressing, something he became associated with during our title push.

You’d be taking away two of his biggest strengths as a player.

He has the traits of Steven Gerrard in that role. He switches off, poor defensive positioning, rushes when under pressure, not the best when facing his own goal and he can be rash in the tackle. All that coupled with Lucas’ incessant need to chase the ball which then leaves the defence exposed. We’ve all seen Jordan Henderson, he’s like a coiled spring. Do you think he has the discipline to sit and watch the game be played out in front of him at this stage of his career? Would it not be like leashing a dog and then playing catch in front of him?

Why risk the growth of Jordan Henderson, the goalscoring midfielder, when it’d be easier to just buy a defensive midfielder?

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  1. Just because he cant score goals or create or take set piece.. doesnt make him defensive midfielder. Lucas is the only defensive midfielder we have.

  2. I am disappointed Rogers hasn’t till now seen the need to buy DM,a position that will soon send him packing out of Anfeild.He can look at the championship,seria A,Portugues league or Dutch league for a bargain player in this position.What of the Porto and Portugal under 21 lad?

  3. One of the factors no doubt, in Steven Gerrard’s decision to leave Liverpool Football Club, along with the club messing him around over a contract situation yet again, but its people who write long pieces of diatribe, attacking his performance in a holding midfield capacity.
    Deep lying playmaker, Steven Gerrard proved he could play there to a high standard two seasons ago in the title fight, creating one of the highest number of chances in the league, his incredible range of passing and precision of pass allowing him to pick out intelligent incisive runs from the two best strikers in the league at the time. The fantastic ability of the heartbeat of the club for many seasons is only amplified by how highly Luis Suarez regards the skipper, to the unlearned eye, an aging scouser strolling around in the centre of the park. Same with Fernando Torres a few seasons ago, although Gerrard played in a different role then, the ability of the captain in terms of his partnership with forwards in his creating role stands to be seen, by two of the best strikers of the past decade put him as the best theyve played with. And this this is what people like you are arguing against, when you question Steven Gerrards ability in a holding midfield capacity.
    You see a holding midfielder, and assume, his primary objective in the side, is to shield the defence, deep lying playmaker is exactly what Steven Gerrard does in the role, simply last season hes got the runs of Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini. Baoltelli and Lambert who simply, dont make runs in behind, and borini who possesses the intelligence of forward run as a retarded grain weevil.
    Gerrards defensive ability in the role, at the age of 34, isnt going to be to the standard of Nemania Matic, or a Calude Makelele, but thats not what hes in the side for, hes in the side to be able to find the strikers, and put them in a dangerous situation, by finding them with a quality pass which you associate with Steven Gerrard, you think back to fulham away the ball to sturridge and the ball to suarez at home to sunderland the year before that, even last season, United away from home, edge of the box, i think its moreno who makes the run, Gerrard picks him out with the most incredible pass, and if hes does that in a chelsea shirt, and its finished off, his regarded as a world class playmaker, instead, he gets chastised by writers of stupid articles, who think a holding midfield player should shield the defence, and if he doesnt do it to the standard of Claude Makelele you want him out the club.
    The pass can only be provided if the run is good. How Gerrard produce the pass, if there is no forward run. Youd look at his stats last season, Steven Gerrard, 0 chances created, 0 tackles, 0 interceptions, probably the highest pass completion of his career last season, or it was going to be before he moved into a forward position, because the run was there, so hed go back and play the easy ball all the time, and thats exactly the statistics youd expect from a deep lying playmaker if there is no movement ahead of him, if there is no movement, how can he be expected to create a chance with a trademark 40 yard ball. How can you have any pudding, if you dont eat your meat. Martin Tyler last season, it was another of Gerrards fantastic 30-40 odd yard through ball to sterling, away at city, “its a great pass from a great player”, which is exactly what is was and is exactly why he is a great player, and thats just him over the past two season playing deeper, thats what hes in the team for. If the run is there, Steven Gerrard will provide, which is why these top strikers have rated him so highly over the past decade or so.
    As a Liverpool fan, as a football fan, you want to see players like Pirlo, Gerrard, Alonso for bayern, in deep lying pplaymaking roles, strolling around, creating these ridiculously high standard of key passes, playing with incredible class on the ball, caressing the football around the pitch. We were treated to it, at times last season, when Gerrard got back into the side away at swansea, for 30 seconds at home to united, and because we’d had lucas in there for so long, treating the football like it was somebody who had kidnapped his wife, and which is one of the reasons liverpool had such poor form towards the end of last season, the opposition could press high, win the ball back high up the pitch, because they knwo theyve got lucas in there who doesnt possess the quality on the ball of a Gerrard, of a top quality player, who would be able to play it out from the back with ease, even with a high press against them, arsenal away, stoke away, liverpool looked awful on the ball, and caught time and again, when playing it out from the back, because weve got this Brazilian who cant play the ball out from the back, doesnt possess the ability when hes in possession of the football. When Gerrard got back into the side, it was refreshing to see the heartbeat of the club go out and caress this football along the deck, even now, your watching the galaxy games, to see Gerrard go and stroke this ball along the deck, threats it how he treats his wife.
    As a fan of Liverpool football club, you want to see good attractive football from club, and weve got this Brazilian in there currently, who is going around treating the ball like its an enemy, its painful to watch, its not good on the eye, its poor football. Obviously i appreciate the work Lucas does off the ball, but it doesnt overcome the pain and unease you see when Lucas is in possession of the football deep inside his own half, and if we continue to play hm there, teams will simply press high, like arsenal last season, like stoke last season, and we will get destroyed.
    In terms of Jordan Henderson in there, your compeltely right, you dont want him in there he could do a job, he could go in there, chance, possibly similar to Wilshere, Henderson could go in there and chance his game, but again, your right, you dont want a player who we are just seeing develop into a top central midfield player, let not forget his fantastic engine and his presence, your not allowing him to spread his wings, he cant do forth and use his tremendous athletic ability, when hes stuck clearing up ahead of the back four, similarly to Milner, if your going to play him, holding, you might aswell cut his right arm off. I think he can be more of a player than a goalscoring midfielder aswell, youve talked of lampard, Lampard is a player who played just to score goals, to pop up, right place in the right time, “ghost in”, thats what his game was all about, ghost in unmarked. Ghost in is exactly right, because you didnt notice him in the game, you didnt see Frank Lampard dominating a football match, moving around winning tackles, battling in the air with the oppositions dominant central midfield player, he was always, “ghosting” in unmarked, with the knack of being there in the right place at the right time, I think we can see henderson, and miner, go out and do more than a lampard in terms of having an impact in the engine room of the game, i think they can both, go out an dominate football matches, if used correctly, by that I mean with a holding midfielder in behind them to cover for there defensive abilties, if they are held back by, you mark him, hes your man, you stay infront and do a job for me today, you track his run, let somebody else do that, shield the back four, possibly can, but again, hes another player, whos main attributes you feel coincide with him driving forward, so and again, your right, get a holding midfielder who can go in there do sweep up, but also is comfortable on the ball, competent enough on the ball to play the ball out from the back, lucas isnt, they are rare to find, but go and spend money on one because they win championships, theyre the ingredient that wins game, you look at matic last season for chelsea, who had a 70% odd win rato when he was in the side, same with coquilin and carrick, who had simialr statistics when they played in the side, they win games, and allow milner and henderson to play slightly infront, in a central midfield role, and they can just go and play, go and win me a football match, they can go forward at leisure, they can score goals, they can create, they can tackle, they can press high, let them go forward, not giving the opposition room in the centre of the park, and then get the holding midfield player in behind them to sweep up the remains of what the two lions of henderson and milner go and destroy.
    The we come to the factor of how to get your coutinho and firmino in there best positions, which system fits them all, and you think its a 4-1-2-2-1, but thats something we can discuss long into the night. Bottom line is, i find it incredible how you can attack the immortal Steven Gerrard, which he certainly is, an angel forged in meseyside, after everything hes done for the club, how you, as a liverpool fan can say one bad word against him, I personally find incredible, and you will say, its another one of these people, Gerrard worshiper, he can do no wrong, but if you stop and think what hes done for the club, the loyalty shown, when he could have gone to better sides and won much more, and got much more respect, he could have gone to chelsea and the slip would never be talked about, the slip for Steven Gerrard was almost the crucifixion for Jesus, how any liverpool fan can slag him off, in te way youve just done, sarcastically slag him off is what youve just done, and after everything hes done for you personally as a human being, I find quite incredible young man.
    But ending on a happier note, if we play it right, the fixtures given to us, playing none of the big boys away from home after christmas, leaving us open for a title charge, if we play it right, it gives us a chance for a push after christmas. And Liverpool football club will rise again.

  4. These articles are always the worst load nazi propaganda ever. Whoever wrote this is no doubt a championship manager 2001 maestro but sadly this does knowledge does not apply to real life football, not that the author understands this. To summarise, Sam Maguire is a holocaust denier

  5. What happens now? Clearly Rogers cannot leave out Henderson and Milner. He made promises to Milner to induce him to come to LFC. He also made Hendo Captain. If you put those two in your team, and then include Ibe on the right, Firmino on the left and Coutinho behind Benteke, then what happens to Lallana, Can? And then who is the Defensive Midfielder? Certainly both Hendeson and Milner are not Defensive Midfielders? It can be Lucas, Can or Allen. But if Rogers has chosen a back four, there isn’t room for a DM. Will Firmino warm the Bench? Or Ibe? Or Coutinho?


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