One of the biggest mistakes that Klopp made was to allow Jordan Henderson to keep the armband when he took over. Maybe he didn’t want to change too much, too soon.
But in his second season, Hendo still has it. Apart from him not bossing games or being a natural midfield general ( shouting at the ref doesn’t count as commanding), it basically made him “undroppable” and in the process stunted the development of Emre Can in central midfield, because unfortunately for the German International, Hendo plays there too.
The result was a player who had played in front of the back four from a young age, being kept out of the side by a player who just adapted recently to the role.
Yes, Henderson has the highest passes in the league but most of them short, 5 yard passes or the safe option back to defenders and the goalkeeper, when put under a little pressure.
Emre Can on the other hand, as has been clear in the last few games, does a lot more than pass backwards and side wards. He falls backs and defends admirably, wins the ball back and does something Hendo is incapable of : He runs out with the ball, takes on players and drives the team forward.
Emre Can has come in for a lot of criticism in the recent past. Initially when returning from a niggling Calf injury, he was one of our worst players, struggling to get to full match fitness. Supporters were calling for his head and his performances were indefensible. But with the injury to Hendo, Klopp kept faith with him and in recent games he has played at a level that we all expected him to be on. Alongside Gini Wijnaldum, the pair showed against Manchester City and last week against Burnley that they are indeed the future. Full of running, intensity and bite in the tackle, they worked their socks off and to good effect.
Part of the dilemma now lies in these golden questions: Will Klopp sacrifice the momentum and growing understanding of Can and Wijnaldum to make space for his captain ?And who does he drop , Emre or Gini?
Most likely, Emre Can will face the chop, which is rather unfortunate as he has just come into good form and showed his potential to be a mainstay in the team.
Owen Hargreaves, as part of a recent EPL match day panel said that when at Bayern Munich ,Can had already been touted as the next midfield general to come out of the system and was surprised to see that his time had been limited in his development in that specific role at Liverpool. [The Hendo Dilemma]
To date, Emre Can is still one of the lowest paid players at the club and contract negotiations have been ongoing since last season. With recent form and age on his side ( He’s only 23), it would make sense to keep him, improve his wages and give him more responsibility.
Hardcore Henderson followers have pulled out the statistics of most passes again to keep Henderson’s star burning, no doubt worried that he might now lose his place.
That statistic is useless as N’golo Kante has less passes than Hendo, but I’m sure everyone wished they had Kante in their teams. How many top teams would want Henderson “bossing” their midfield?
It remains to be seen, but it does seem as though he will be saved by the (arm) band.