Last season, most people would have laughed off Jordan Henderson ever being a first team regular in the Liverpool squad, and he was even close to being sold to Fulham last summer. But this season, we’ve seen a remarkable change in the young England midfielder. He is now one of the first names on the team sheet and a vital asset in Liverpool’s performances.
The Rise of Henderson
This season, Henderson has been ever present in the Liverpool team, being the only outfield player to start every game so far. And it was no different this weekend against Tottenham. Henderson made his 16th start of the season, playing in the free role position, in behind Suarez.
This was tactical genius from Brendan Rodgers, as Henderson put in a man of the match display. Henderson had 78 touches on the ball, more than anyone else on the pitch, and completed 58 out of 63 passes, again, more than anyone else on the pitch. This position seemed influential in Henderson’s overall performance, as he scored his first goal of the season and made 1 assist, as well as 1 second goal assist.
The main stereotype of players who play in the free role is that they’re lazy and don’t have to do much work, but this is where Henderson broke the mold. Henderson is a player who works his socks off in every single thing he does, and this is something that Henderson brought to this position. He won 4 out of 7 ground duels and made the most ball recoveries on the pitch with a total of 8 and this was down to his quick pressing of the ball high up the pitch. This was again, highest on the pitch, with one even leading to Suarez’s first goal.
The zones, in which Henderson passed the ball about, showed that he was willing to drop deeper into midfield to get on the ball and start play off, as 60% of his passes were in the defensive half. Out of the passes made in the attacking half (40%), half of these passes were made in the final third, showing that he is heavily involved in all areas of the pitch. Henderson only completed 1 through ball, which is relatively low compared to previous matches, although he did create 3 chances, all from open play. He also completed all of his 7 long balls attempted.
Rest or Not to Rest?
With form like this it is hard to see Henderson out of the starting 11, but surely Rodgers will want to give him some well deserved rest. This is not as easy a decision as first though because with Gerrard out, and Henderson filling the void against Spurs effectively, Rodgers has a dilemma on his hands. Whatever the decision made, what is sure is that Henderson will definitely keep his starting place, based solely on his run of form, regardless of rest. Being the Kop’s third most creative player this season so far, only behind Gerrard and Suarez, Liverpool will be hoping that Henderson keeps up the good work and improves even further.