‘You don’t know what you have until it’s gone’ is a worldwide known statement, and a particularly poignant one for football fans.
It’s very easy to forget the importance or impact of certain players after they’ve experienced a lengthy spell on the side-lines. Such is the case for Jordan Henderson, whose untimely injury at the end of last season saw many forget just what he can bring to the first-team.
Every year it seems as though Henderson has things to answer for. He’s got a point to prove, an impact to make. Fans remain critical and sceptical of what he adds to the dynamic and whether he’s best suited to be the club’s captain for the long term. That’s been the case since his thoroughly underwhelming transfer to Liverpool from Sunderland in 2011. Joining for £16million, Henderson was widely considered to be below the level expected for a team of Liverpool’s stature.
Yet, Henderson has matured into one of the most important figures within the side following the retirement of Steven Gerrard. Not that I am in any way comparing the two, but the England international has displayed such class and composure both on and off the field, replicating the traits that make him such a good fit for a captain.
Last season, Henderson was one of the main drivers in Liverpool’s hunt for a top-four finish. His early season form was head and shoulders above his teammates, showing authority and confidence in possession to drive forward and dominate the midfield.
Showing attacking nous as well as defensive discipline, the England international stretches the play, providing an out ball against aggressive counter-attacking sides. Jumping into tackles while showing ingenuity on the ball, Henderson provided Klopp with the best possible option in the middle of the park.
However, people continued to write off Henderson. Seen as surplus to requirements, particularly given links to RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita, the 27-year-old remained determined in his mission to prove himself at Anfield last season.
Unfortunately, injuries came at the worst possible time for the midfielder and the club. At the business end of the season, Henderson was largely unavailable, struggling with an ongoing ankle issue that saw Emre Can take the reigns as Liverpool’s main midfield man. The German rose to the occasion exceptionally, coming up with timely goals against Burnley and Watford to help Klopp’s side pip their rivals to a Champions League place.
Nonetheless, it’s important to remember just what Henderson can bring to the table when fully fit. Emre Can has the physicality and snide that the Englishman doesn’t, while Naby Keita provides an all-round quality option in the middle of the park, but Henderson could still have a crucial role to play in the outcome of the 2017/18 season.
With a much busier fixture list, Klopp will need to rotate the ranks and spread the trust, thus given Henderson may fall out of favour as first choice midfielder, he could still be given plenty of chances to show what he can offer. The Englishman offers something different from his teammates, setting the tempo for those around him while breaking up the play of low-block, defensive sides. He can switch the play in the blink of an eye, giving width and unpredictability to Liverpool’s side – a crucial asset when trying to mount a challenge on four fronts.
Henderson doesn’t give the opposition a minute’s rest and will always embody traits of a player that never quits. That never-say-die attitude is what makes him such a perfect kit for Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy and one in which his teammates can’t fulfil with equal success.
Football fans have short memories and many are quick to forget just what Henderson gave Liverpool last season. People have written him off since the day he got here, but he’s always proved his doubters wrong and prior to injury, enjoyed a stellar 2016/17 campaign for the Reds. A sublime curler against Chelsea was of particular significance, giving proof of just what he is capable of, while Henderson’s all-round game will see him have a key role next season.
Needless to say, there will be more competition for places, but Henderson has proven year upon year what he can give to the Liverpool midfield. Klopp clearly values his presence, both in terms of breaking up play to dictate the tempo, and through attacking creativity to feed balls into the front men.
If he can get a good pre-season under his belt and set aside his injury worries, Henderson will have a prime spot in Liverpool’s midfield for the upcoming season.
The 27-year-old has shown leadership qualities on and off the pitch and with Liverpool set to return to the Champions League, he has another opportunity to reach the next level for Klopp’s side. People would be ill advised to dismiss his impact on the team without a second thought.