There has been much debate this season concerning the faltering performances of expensive players such as Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, and the so-called vast improvement of players such as Arsenal’s other midfielder, Aaron Ramsey. One such player that’s improvement has been recognised but not necessarily to the extent that he deserves is Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson.
The 23-year-old has been much maligned over the last few seasons for his supposed lack of a positive contribution to the team’s performances, but has experienced a turnaround that now has him in the position where he is undoubtedly one of the first names on the team sheet and the decision not to play him in Liverpool’s FA Cup game against Arsenal as an uncalculated risk.
Henderson has started all 26 league games so far this season, a statistic only shared by Simon Mignolet in goal. He has not spent much time on the bench in these games either, as illustrated by the fact that he has spent 2319 minutes on the pitch. This is only 21 minutes shorter than Mignolet who has not missed a single minute in the league. In comparison with last season, this is a huge improvement on its own. Henderson only made 30 appearances in total last season, 14 of which came from the substitute’s bench.
Looking at his statistics for this season, it is easy to see why Brendan Rodgers has placed so much faith in Henderson’s ability in midfield. He has attempted 1401 passes so far and has completed 1215 of them, meaning he has an overall passing accuracy of 87%. To be fair, only 29% of his passes have went forward but to counter this, only 18% have been passed backwards. This is one area where there is not much difference between the Henderson of last season and this season, as last year he managed to complete 85% of his passes.
Breaking down the passing statistics, it is interesting to see his accuracy in the three areas of the pitch. His 92% accuracy in the defensive zone is identical to last season but his 81% accuracy in the attacking zone is slightly better than his 79% accuracy of last season. The biggest improvement is in the final third of the pitch where he has an 82% accuracy so far this season, compared to just 72% last year. This is likely the reason for why he has managed to create 48 chances so far this season compared to just 33 chances in the whole of last season. He has already managed to make six assists this season which makes him the third highest creator at the club behind Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez.
Of course, it’s not just Henderson’s ability at going forward that has served him well this year; he has also shown why he has a good defensive capability as well, a skill most notably shown in the game against Arsenal at Anfield last week. He has won possession back 76 times in midfield and a further 56 times in the defensive third. He has only managed it seven times in the attacking zone of the pitch but this is reflective of the fact that Henderson’s job has been to win the ball from the opponent and open an attacking move in the process. Altogether, this means he has won possession of the ball every 17 minutes on average so far this season.
Looking closer at his creative impact for the Reds this season, Henderson has not seen a huge improvement over last season which may come as a surprise to those who knocked him last year. He has created six clear-cut chances which is the same as last year, although that was obviously over the whole season. His crossing leaves more to be desired however as he has only completed five crosses which is the same as last season. However, he has achieved this from 37 attempts this season compared to 17 last season, meaning he has an accuracy of just 14% this year compared to 29% last year.
He was much better in front of goal last year however. Henderson managed to score five goals last year with a shooting accuracy of 46%. Despite playing in every game so far this season, the midfielder has only managed to score once and has a meagre shooting accuracy of just 36%. It is worth noting however that he has attempted a shot every 83 minutes this year compared to a shot every 64 minutes on average last year, and so this is an obvious explanation of why scoring hasn’t come as easily to him this year.
When you take all these statistics into account, it’s fair to say in my opinion that Henderson should be getting more credit for the job he has done for Liverpool so far this season. The midfielder has greatly improved his performances over the level he achieved in previous seasons and is rightly an integral part of Brendan Rodgers’ team. All Henderson can do now is try and repeat this in the seasons to come.