The criminally under-rated Liverpool captain

The criminally under-rated Liverpool captain

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Last year, when Jurgen Klopp was once asked about Jordan Henderson, the German was unflustered when he said his captain is the most criminally under-rated player in the Premier League.

Henderson is the subject of ridicule, from Liverpool fans and opposition fans alike. But does he deserve that? I don’t believe he does.

Since he permanently took over the captain’s armband from Steven Gerrard at the start of the 2015-16 season, the biggest drawback about Henderson has been how often he has got injured.

But why does he get as much hate as he does? The answer to that lies partly in how Sir Alex Ferguson once described his “from the hip” awkward running style.

The common perception is that you cannot be a controller in midfield if you look awkward on the ball. But the common perception, as with many of those, does not reflect the entire picture.

Last season, Liverpool had four midfielders in the squad. Henderson, Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana. It is very likely that for Henderson’s position at the base of the midfield, the one competition will come from Can, who had a terrific end to last season playing in that position.

But to be fair to the captain, as long as he played there, that position was his own, and he impacted how Liverpool play. Henderson is similar to what Darren Fletcher was to Ferguson at United. Unfashionable, even ugly, but mighty effective. For Klopp’s system, his captain is pivotal.

Last season, Henderson provided everything you’d want from a deep-lying midfielder. He played 24 Premier League games for the club last season, and was comfortably the best midfielder in the side, purely by the numbers.

He was the best passer in the side, his 86% pass completion rate matched only by Wijnaldum. And this is where the biggest myth about Henderson comes into play. He is perceived as a “safe” passer, someone who plays the ball only backwards and sideways.

The numbers emphatically disprove that. He completed a total of 1,993 passes last season. Out of those, 1,319 were played forward. So, one in three Henderson passes go backwards. The numbers are very similar to Sergio Busquets’s in La Liga. Busquets played 1,443 forward passes out of 2,091 passes.

But that is not where Henderson’s more important contributions come. He is a defensive midfielder, in a side that has as shaky a defence as any in the top half of the Premier League.

To protect that back four is Henderson’s primary duties. With 4.73 interceptions or tackles in every 90 minutes, Henderson is comfortably ahead of the other Liverpool midfielders in that metric.

Another huge complaint is that Henderson is tactically unaware and unfit to wear the captain’s armband. Look at that Liverpool team when he’s on the pitch, and there’s only one man commanding the troops.

Jordan Henderson is a classic case of someone’s reputation preceding him. When Liverpool signed a precocious youngster for 16 million pounds, the fans demanded that he not be overawed by his surroundings, and that he bed in straightaway. For a youngster making his first move outside home, and that too to a club like Liverpool, that was never going to happen.

While the press will run about English players being over-rated, there is one leading one of the biggest clubs in the land that is criminally under-rated.

He barely gets caught on the ball, he rarely commits fatal errors. When he does decide to go for the extravagant, it is only because, technically, he is capable of doing that. So be it playing the long diagonal to the wide players, or curling one into the far post (Remember Thibaut Courtois and Marko Grujic), it is barely ever a laughable attempt. The biggest positive about Henderson is that it looks like he knows what he is going to do with the ball, a split second before he receives it, and whatever the situation, he plays it. They are not the traits of a star midfielder, but can everyone be a Philippe Coutinho? Why is little Phil so special if everyone can do what he does?

That style is why he barely makes errors. He knows what he is doing with the ball, and which part of the pitch he can do it in. He’s not the first of his kind, he’s definitely not the last of his kind. And hell, he’s definitely not Steven Gerrard. Gerrards don’t grow on trees.

But Liverpool’s captain is vital to his side, and for his and our sake, one can only hope that the foot injury that has hampered his last two seasons incessantly will stay away. If they do, then who knows? The Premier League Asia Trophy might not be the only piece of silverware for the Anfield cabinet next May.

by

Born an Indian. Somehow, a lot of Scouse has gotten in me.

Comments

9 responses to “The criminally under-rated Liverpool captain”

  1. Bang average at best, he will never be good enough however much the media tries to make him look good. we all have eyes and can see he is just an average player and there is nothing exceptional he brings to the table.

  2. Kweks says:

    I don’t agree. He may not be a flair player but he controls the game whenever he’s on the pitch. Many pundits have said, and I totally agree with them, that if Henderson had been on the pitch on the day we lost to Chelsea and eventually lost the league in 2014, the result would have been different and we would have won the league .

  3. John Doe says:

    He’s English and frankly speaking the English press, pundits etc always over rate players.
    If you really want to know how good Jordan Henderson is ask yourself this question.

    If Jordan Henderson was for sale to ANY club in premier league and Europe which clubs of the top sides would get into?

  4. Rick says:

    He may never be fully appreciated because he doesn’t play with the flair and finesse of some of the elite players. Not many playing the six do. What Henderson does do is make the team better when he is on the pitch. He contributes to the attack, protects the back, and bosses the midfield. I will take him everyday of the week and twice on Sundays.

  5. ridaa says:

    Look at all of our top players over the years Coutinho , FIrminho, Gerrard, Fowler, Owen etc they were constantly linked to other teams we’d recieve bids from other teams from time to time generally there would be interest this is not the case Henderson because he is not that good so i disagree he is not criminally under rated

  6. lordslim says:

    Hate it or Love it Hendo makes Liverpool 100000000 times better everytime he plays.
    He picked up a yellow that sits him out for a couple of games and we lost the title.
    Last season before his injury he was leading the league on passes and midfield play.
    Believe me apart from his injury troubles I’d take him everyday all days.
    HENDERSON IS THE MOST CRIMINALLY UNDER-RATED PLAYER IN THE WORLD.
    AND HE’S A LOT MORE BETTER THAN THE MATICS, FELAINIS, COQS AND MOST OF YOUR FANCY MIDFIELDERS…
    YNWA…

  7. leo says:

    The argument that Henderson is criminally underrated, by some measures, mean that LFC is not receiving bids that show how valuable he is. It means that if Henderson is put up for sale to ANY club in the premiership and Europe, he may not get into a top six club. That’s what the article IS saying. To point out the same fact would underline what the article is saying, rather than saying the clubs are ALWAYS correct in the valuation of players; we all know how that is gonna go.
    Now I am not a super fan of Henderson, at times I see him having the vision but not the skill to complete the shot he intended. Personally, I see it as Henderson placing the shots more “in the vicinity” type of player but I may be too picky.
    However, for arguments sake, it would be better if Henderson is compared with what he brings to the table with facts rather than “pundits, media or clubs” valuations over the guy, wouldn’t it?

  8. Swadhyaya mohanty says:

    Stop watching futbl mate…

  9. FrankC says:

    Our most important player. From his position he protects the back 2, sets the tempo, looks to support the attack and is our captain. We desperately need Hendo to stay fit as nobody does the job as well as him. Can is good and getting better but lacks Hendo’s mobility and ability to cover laterally.

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Published by Anfield Index
Updated: 2017-07-28 07:27:07
4,101 Views