After the highs of last season, Liverpool seemed to be going in the wrong direction in the new campaign. Although they strengthened in numbers, the summer signings have failed to impress as a whole and look a completely different outfit without star duo Daniel Sturridge and the departed Luis Suarez. That being said, the Reds recorded a much needed victory against a stubborn West Brom side but again failed produce the sort of football that made them so entertaining to watch last season. Adam Lallana scored his first goal for the club and is slowly starting to show his quality for the side but Jordan Henderson was the one to catch the eye after a dominant display in midfield and a man of the match performance to go with it.
There are problems for Liverpool all over the pitch at the moment. Firstly you have a back four still settling in as a defensive unit in front of a far from confident goalkeeper in Simon Mignolet. The striking talent is a far cry from the Sturridge and Suarez partnership that slaughtered teams last season, with Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli failing to score a single goal in the league so far. The midfield seems to be overpowered by the opposition and without Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard seems exposed with Jordan Henderson having to make up for the Liverpool captain’s lack of dominance in a holding role.
Rodgers, however, decided to use Henderson in a more forward role against West Brom. Having predominantly been an attack-minded midfield from his days at Sunderland, he has demonstrated on many occasions that he is able to travel from box-to-box with relative ease. Although scoring goals has been an issue, his keen eye for a killer pass has been evident for a while and his number of assists in the last year and half has been up there with the top creative players in the league, contributing with three already so far. Phillipe Coutinho was pushed back in order to control the tempo in the middle whilst Henderson was able to drive forward to support the likes of Lallana and Sterling, which resulted in an assist and eventually the winner midway through the second half.
In terms of the stats from the game, Henderson looked impressive all over the pitch, starting off with his passing. Attempting 52 passes overall, the England international was successful with 45, giving him a passing accuracy figure of 87%. This included four chances, one of which was the back heeled assist for Lallana who finished an excellent passage of play with aplomb.
‘Jordan is the one player in the country who can dominate games without the ball because he has this wonderful physical capacity.
‘But today was about him getting a bit more forward and his winning goal came when he arrived into the box. He finished it well and it was a great performance from him all-round.
‘His confidence levels are very good, he has a lovely technique on the ball and he understands the lines of passing. He is a wonderful young man to work with.’
Brendan Rodgers on Henderson’s performance.
The Sunderland born Henderson was brought to Liverpool during a turbulent period at the club. In the same transfer window, the Reds bought Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing and with Henderson, the fee for the three players reached around £75 million. Carroll and Downing did not meet their expectations by any means and were soon offloaded to West Ham whilst a hard working Jordan Henderson was working tirelessly on and off the pitch, with little results. Rumours circulated of a possible transfer to Fulham in deal, which could involve Clint Dempsey moving the other way. True or not, there was no deal in the end but it did result in a more determined and hungry young player looking to establish himself at one of the biggest clubs and England, and here we are. £20 million seems like a bargain now.
The 24-year-old is renowned for his hard work and stamina levels to keep him pushing till the very last minute. Only second to Lallana, Henderson travelled 11.5 kilometres during the match, which helped him make two interceptions and three successful tackles.
His goal, which turned out to be the winner, was reminiscent of the sort of goal which Liverpool were associated with last season. A calm finish into the bottom left corner in a crowded penalty area identified the control and awareness of the midfielder and ability to find the gap with a precise finish. The goal came after a great team move involving 15 passes, good movement and patience which was rewarded in the end.
Although it was far from vintage Liverpool, they will be grateful for another win on the board after losing half of their opening six games. Henderson will know that he has to work even harder against teams who will be even more resilient than West Brom but is caught in limbo at the moment and is having to patrol the midfield area with Gerrard, rather than to bomb forward with his team-mates. With Allen and Sturridge on schedule to return after the international break, Henderson could see his role change into a more attacking option. Liverpool were ruing the loss of players during the last international break so they will be keeping their fingers and toes crossed that Henderson and team-mates make it back unscathed.
Stats and images via StatsZone and Daily Mail