Can Liverpool trust Jordan Henderson?
Jordan Henderson was sarcastically dubbed as the poor man's Andrea Pirlo after England exited the World Cup losing to Croatia in the semifinal. There was even a compilation video doing the rounds on the internet which showed how horrible and pathetic Henderson looked while giving lob balls and crosses to his teammates. Yes, the Liverpool man was not at his best at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow against the Croats but neither were captain Harry Kane or youngster Jesse Lingard. Then why was Henderson made the scapegoat?
England is a country which glorifies its heroes but crucifies those who fail; having a fall guy for the mistakes made by others is a way of life in the land. Gareth Southgate had led England to the semifinals of the World Cup and they were within touching distance of the final- something that very few in this generation have experienced or felt and suddenly that dream was shattered by Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic. England had been so near and yet so far.
There was no point in blaming the Croats because they were playing brilliant football, so the next best thing to do was find an Aunt Sally within their own team. Jordan Henderson, unheralded and having no air about him, seemed perfect. That he played for Liverpool, English football's perennial underachievers, seemed to be an added advantage. But what many of England's fans forgot was that the man has proved to be extremely reliable in the past and even led the country on multiple occasions.
Henderson is not your most authentic player. He is not the best pound-to-pound midfielder going around nor is he blessed with pace. You wouldn't trust him with creating chances out of nowhere as flair is not his forte. So how has he been so successful both with Liverpool and England?
Jordan Henderson's game is suited to the high-pressing approach where he reduces the pressure on the defensive line and takes the ball to the attacking midfielders who in turn create opportunities for scoring goals. He is at his best when he is asked to press high and defend deep; Henderson is someone you would call upon when your team is in a crisis. He is no James Milner though, having no pace at his disposal or the wherewithal to tear opponents apart. He can be more compared to Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini, even a little bit of N'Golo Kante but with a touch of more defensive authority.
This season hasn't been spectacular for Henderson. Although he has led Liverpool when he has played, Henderson has started only in four games so far and failed to register either a goal or an assist. The record isn't really worrying, though, because he is not in the team to score goals. Henderson is a crucial part of Liverpool and someone who is highly admired by manager Jurgen Klopp. Even though he has lost his place in the side to new signing Naby Keita, Liverpool need to trust him and give him the freedom and space to express himself.
Players like Henderson do not come around very often. These are men who are willing to do the hard work and let others take the credit. He has suited nicely into Jurgen Klopp's plans for Liverpool but to be a tad more effective, he needs to reinvent himself as Georginio Wijnaldum did.
Liverpool have an envious midfield squad consisting of Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita, Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri. That kind of competition will force Henderson to up his game and remain relevant. Liverpool need to trust their most experienced player and show faith in their captain.