Three games left in the battle for top-four and Liverpool have to make do without their skipper. Jordan Henderson has now missed the last eleven games and as we enter the final stages of the campaign, Alex Ferguson’s comments from 2013 become all the more poignant.
The former-Manchester United manager made some rather damning comments in regard to Henderson four years ago, stating:
“We looked at Jordan Henderson a lot and Steve Bruce was unfailingly enthusiastic about him. Against that we noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips. We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career.”
Quality When Fit
On his day, Henderson’s influence on the team is beyond doubt. The man that so often keeps things ticking in midfield, his incisive switches in play ensure Liverpool remain on the front foot and probe the opposition for a glimpse at goal. Not to mention his ability to curl one in the top bins on occasion with a stunner at Stamford Bridge particularly note worthy.
Averaging 1.57 key passes per game in the agonising 2013/14 season, Henderson was crucial to the way Brendan Rodgers set up his side. This season, despite his troubles, the skipper has continued to impress in terms of creativity. An average of 1.29 chances per game this season sees him pose a better record than any of his midfield compatriots.
That title challenging season saw the very best of Henderson. Fast flowing attacking football much like the philosophy used by Jurgen Klopp saw the captain shine, running nearly 11 kilometres per ninety minutes. That figure saw him ranked among the league’s top ten for distance covered, typifying the energetic presence he brings to the fore. Unfortunately for Klopp, it’s a trait he’s seen all too little of.
Henderson has been a regular feature on the side-lines for Liverpool this season, much like his injury plagued campaign of 2015/16. Limited to just 26 appearances in all competitions, 17 of which came in the Premier League, the Reds’ captain was hardly a figure that could be relied upon.
This season has continued in similar fashion with the 26-year-old registering 27 appearances – seven more in the league than the previous campaign but by no means an impressive figure. To add some further context to the matter, Henderson has missed more than 30 games during the two seasons in which Jurgen Klopp has been manager of Liverpool, causing questions to surface over whether the club can rely upon their captain in the years to come.
Quality Replacement In The Ranks But Summer Recruits Needed
Klopp himself has recognised that Henderson’s season is done and dusted. However, unlike the 2013/14 season in which his red card proved catastrophic for Liverpool’s hopes of securing the title, Klopp has a great alternative option in the skippers’ absence.
Emre Can has been one of the players to benefit from Henderson’s absence, establishing himself at the heart of the midfield after a poor run of form before January. His bullish figure and new-found snide gives Liverpool an edge that no one else in the side can – Henderson included. While his passing stats fall short of his teammate’s, it will give Klopp hope should Henderson’s injuries persist into next season.
A man of the match performance against Manchester City in the 1-1 draw at The Etihad was testament to that, with two crucial winners in recent weeks against Burnley and Watford guiding Liverpool toward a Champions League spot. On both those occasions, however, it wasn’t just the manner of his goal that was so impressive but an all-round dominant display in midfield, going toe-to-toe with the physical aspects of the game and bringing some real steel to the table.
Nonetheless, it is becoming crystal clear that the Reds need some midfield reinforcements in the summer. During his first four seasons at Anfield, Henderson made 139 appearances in the league, averaging a total of 35 games per season. Sadly, those figures are now nothing more than a distant memory.
Three games to go and Champions League fate in the balance, yet Liverpool’s captain is nowhere to be seen. A blunt statement maybe, but one that holds a rather damning truth.
The 26-year-old is a quality cog within Klopp’s side when fit and firing, but that has becoming increasingly infrequent as the years have gone by. Whether it’s Naby Keita or someone else, it’s an issue that Liverpool would do well to address in the summer as Henderson continues to go amiss. Maybe Fergie was right after all…