So a young midfielder was enjoying good form for his hometown club, which lead to him being labeled as one of his country’s most promising players and one of the biggest clubs in the country then pays a premium to acquire his services. The midfielder then finds it tough in new settings and surrounded by renowned footballers, under pressure from a price tag, supporters and aggressive media expecting him to deliver.
Having problems adapting to a new life, Henderson – also played out of his favoured position, failed to deliver in 2011/12. Fans lost their patience and Henderson was under the spotlight and highly criticised. Henderson never gave up though and there were a few bright performances – the 10-man victory away to Blackburn last season was certainly one where he covered the right side of the Liverpool team. Spending long hours training very hard, overcoming numerous obstacles Jordan Henderson has improved in 2012/13. Jordan is now winning back the fans’ recognition and is quickly becoming one of the most important players at the club.
That’s the story of Jordan Henderson at Liverpool. Sounds like a movie scenario doesn’t it? It’s not. Lucas has been there – he joined Liverpool as one of the biggest prospects in Brazilian football and then made it all the way from being booed by his own fans to becoming their favorite. He used to be the ugly duckling wanted by no one, now he is a beautiful swan, one of Liverpool’s key players.
What does it have to do with Henderson? His story is similar. Jordan used to be Sunderland’s star, then Kenny Dalglish came and made him part of his Anfield revolution. A revolution that collapsed very quickly, killing its own Robespierre. This season Henderson has mostly played from the bench, fighting for his starting place and winning back the fans who lost their faith in him after a very bad first season. And he has started succeeded in doing so. His last seven starts have seen him score three goals and obtain three goal assists also.
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Henderson loses possession much more seldom than he did the previous season, as he loses the ball every 139 minutes now compared to last term’s 81 minutes. He also wins the ball slightly more often, though the difference is very small here. Those changes in stats can’t be just solely regarded as an outcome of his improvement, though.
Brendan Rodgers’ footballing philosophy is based on keeping the ball and playing short, accurate passes rather than going direct. Playing in such system makes it easier to retain possession. More intensive pressing should also result in players winning the ball more often. Still, Jordan seems to be getting better here as the difference in his mins per loss of possession ratios is too big to be simply be an outcome of Liverpool’s new tactics.
Jordan’s passing accuracy increased too as he now completes over 4% more of his passes than he did in the previous campaign. I wouldn’t say that it’s because Henderson’s passing ability got better, though. The difference isn’t really big and if you’ll look at where his passes are addressed you’ll see that it’s more about Jordan playing safer passes than being more accurate.
You can’t blame him for doing so, as it’s nothing bad to take fewer risks. Actually, it’s an outcome of the new system again. Brendan Rodgers wants his team to keep possession, patiently circulate the ball and cause “death by football” to the opposition. This kind of approach requires players to pass more vertically and less horizontally. That’s why Henderson sends more of his balls to the left or right instead of just playing them forward.
Jordan seems to be much more creative player now than he was under Kenny Dalglish. He has already assisted 3 goals compared to last season’s 1 and created one more clear-cut chance than he did last term. The difference in hard numbers may seem to be small, but a brief look at Henderson’s mins per chance and clear-cut chance created ratios explains why improvement he’s made is huge. Liverpool midfielder creates a chance every 49 minutes and a clear-cut chance every 243 minutes compared to last season’s 83 and 887,7 minutes respectively.
Another area of Henderson’s big improvement is his goalscoring ability. Although he has scored just one more goal than he did last season, he has spent much less time on the pitch which makes his 3 goals look much better than 2 scored under King Kenny.
Jordan being more deadly isn’t actually too much of surprise if you consider his stats. He needs almost 30 minutes less to take a shot now and 88 minutes less for his shot to be on target. It obviously makes his shooting accuracy rise by 8%, from 45% to 53%. Henderson’s chance conversion has tripled from 6% to 18% while his clear-cut chance conversion remained at the same 33%.
Jordan Henderson didn’t have the easiest start to his Liverpool career. Brought in for big money as a part of new Anfield revolution, he found himself under huge pressure to deliver and failed to do so, becoming a subject to fans’ criticism. Then the new manager took over and benched him. Now, that Joe Allen is out with shoulder injury, Jordan can prove his value to the team and win Liverpool supporters’ recognition. Looking at his stats, it’s hard not to admit he’s getting better. After all he has already scored and assisted more goals than he did in his previous season while playing 1691 minutes less.
As mentioned above, Lucas Leiva had endured a turbulent start to his Liverpool life too. He’d been labeled as a flop and called useless, and now he’s one of Rodgers’ key players. Perhaps Jordan Henderson’s path to Anfield glory is the same. Many criticized signing him, saying he’ll never be good enough for Liverpool, that he’ll never live up to his price tag. Now he starts to develop and his game is getting better. He has impressed many with his latest displays, but is he capable of following Lucas’ footsteps?
Can he turn from benched zero to the Kop hero? We should be able to answer this question next season.
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