You’re not that important

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Jordan Brian Henderson.

In the summer of 2012, Jordan Henderson was offered to Fulham in a last ditch attempt by Liverpool to land Clint Dempsey. An year after what would be a dream move for any young English player. One year. It can make a lot of difference.

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A 2-0 loss to Everton under the reign of current England manager Roy Hodgson.

Liverpool fans know this only too better. From a 2nd place finish in 08-09 season to 7th in 09-10. From playing tactically astute football under Rafael Benitez to playing Hodgeball. One year is all it takes. Let us talk about Jordan Henderson.

Jordan Henderson was born in Sunderland, went on to sign for Sunderland AFC, spent some time at Coventry City FC on loan, came back and had two very good seasons for Sunderland. He was also England’s U21 captain. In summer 2011, Liverpool came knocking with Dalglish’s desire to build the team with an English core. A fee of £16 million was paid and he became one of the many recruits that window. Henderson had an indifferent first season, albeit, mostly played out of position. He managed 2 goals in his debut season, and, a lot of criticism.

Kenny Dalglish left Liverpool, in came Brendan Rodgers, a different style of football, a better man manager. Henderson had another opportunity to prove himself. But the same summer window, he was offered to Fulham FC. He denied the move, and wanted to fight for his place at Anfield. He seemed surprised, but unfazed. He wanted to stay, and fight. Again, his start to the season was nothing extravagant. He was played all over the park; right side of midfield, right back, and occasionally a centre-mid. Further criticism followed.

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Roll on to the revival. Liverpool had started to show signs of improvement under Rodgers, on pitch, if not on the table. 17th November 2012. Anfield. Nothing special? Oh but it is. Liverpool vs Wigan Athletic. 37 minutes into the match, Liverpool had lots of possession, but could not find a goal. Suso had just drawn a great save from the goalkeeper with a 30 yarder. In came a tactical change from Rodgers, to take control of midfield. Jordan Henderson came on for Suso, Liverpool won the midfield battle, and eventually the match with a scoreline of 3-0. The tide that toyed with Henderson’s surfboard until now finally started to ebb. Jordan Henderson had always given his all in performances, but it always felt like he lacked the level required. Until now. Liverpool had a good finish to the season and Henderson now felt a part of the squad. He also won England’s U21 player of the year award.

2013-14. Change in system. From David Brent of The Office, Brendan Rodgers quietly went to Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones. Growing stronger, gathering strength. Henderson was his onion knight. Rodgers had drawn a lot of criticism for not having a “plan B” during his first season. He changed the “plan A” altogether, through the course of season, with a substantial bit of tinkering and testing. A 3-5-2, a 4-4-2, 4-4-2 diamond and lots of fancy terms were used. But Liverpool finally settled in a system. From trying to emulate Barcelona last season, all possession, trying to work an opening, Liverpool went to an amalgamation of possession and Dortmund’s counterattacking play. The blistering pace of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, sheer brilliance of Phillipe Coutinho and some guy called Luis Suarez. WHERE’S HENDERSON IN ALL THIS YOU TOOL?, you might have started to think. Look in the middle of the park, and you fill find someone snapping at opposition players’ heels. Chasing the ball when not in possession, closing down spaces. Passing it ahead when in possession, making intelligent runs, running and running some more. He is as important a part of team as Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge. He’s Liverpool’s heart, constantly beating, if Suarez is the teeth, biting away at oppositions (smirk). With a system of trying to win the ball high up the pitch, pressing, he becomes a vital cog because not many people can do what he does, so efficiently, so tirelessly.

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 This is what Jack Wilshere said about Henderson after the 5-1 defeat in February.

Strengths: Workrate. It’s almost passé now. But yes, he runs towards the ball, pressing, tackling, not giving a moment to the ball to rest. With time, he has also shown a massive improvement in going ahead. A midfield runner is very important part of the team. With Gerrard playing a deeper role, it is upon him and Coutinho to bomb forward, try to score, get on second balls, make space for others. Another great aspect of Henderson is that he seems indifferent to criticism. With the Fergie-gait-gate, claiming he runs from his knees, twitter jokes and questions on his price tag, a lot of youngsters would crumble under pressure. Not him. He has never claimed to have the piquancy similar to the likes of Cazorla or Silva. He isn’t bullish like Yaya Toure, either. But he works hard. He is the sole survivor of Kenny Dalglish’s multi-million shopping spree. He gained confidence in himself. And Rodgers had started to trust him too. Only recently, Liverpool’s head of performance Glen Driscoll said that Jordan Henderson and Luis Suarez work the hardest in the group, which says a lot in itself. And as goes a saying in football, someone with 8/10 skill and 10/10 determination over someone with 10/10 skill and 8/10 determination all day, everyday. Throughout his time at Liverpool, never once will you find him saying he’s having it tough. He’s always wanted to earn his place.

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Jordan Henderson after scoring in a 5-0 win away to Tottenham.

Like everyone, he has his weaknesses. He can’t finish. He simply can’t, with a shot accuracy of 36% and even worse goal-to-shot ratio (1/16). Look at the chance against Arsenal in the 5-1 win for instance. But a weakness also means something to improve on. A player still 23, will only get better with time.

Statistics. Damned statistics. If goals or assists is all that mattered, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos would not be in world’s elite. But what would a football article be without statistics? Here I compare England’s 4 young central midfielders. Jordan Henderson, Thomas Cleverly, Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley. All thanks to the guys at Squawka for this infographic.

Comparison of 4 English CMs

Statistical comparison.

This graphic right here shows that Henderson, this season, has done some great work besides running. Highest assists, chances created, tackles won amongst the more celebrated young CM’s of England. Before you say that he has played more than others, his stats are bound to be better, keep in mind that it is so because he remained fit all season and earned himself a starting berth in the team.  [Quick trivia: Did you know? "Young prospect" Thomas Cleverly is older than Bayern forward Thomas Müller].

All credit to Jordan Henderson, for keeping his chin up, and working hard for the turnaround and some to Brendan Rodgers, for his excellent man management. While he may slip under the radar when opposition teams are drawing their tactics board and threats by Liverpool, he is one of the first names on Liverpool sheet. At Liverpool, there is a set of players who were never really were the world’s best like Steven Gerrard or Ian Rush but they always gave the crest all they had. This group is loved as much as anyone with the likes of Dirk Kuyt, Luis Garcia and probably Jon Arne Riise. Jordan Henderson is getting there. Hurrying. Harassing. Hair gel. Humble. Hope. Henderson. Hero? While you finished reading this, Henderson has completed running 3 more miles.

Ayush is a part of @Football_P family and you can follow him at @Cycle_Bin

[Credits- Squawka for all the statistics and infographics]

Ayush Maheshwari

Computer Science engineer. UI developer. Loves Liverpool FC, reading, data structures, half volleys, Philippe Coutinho, all things morbid and Game of Thrones - in no particular order. Occasionally funny. Also, a novice tactical observer.

  • Brian Swanick

    Great read. The fans clearly now have a polarizing opinion of him from the opinion of his first year with us. He’s truly been an important part of our success this season and good on him for overcoming the criticism. I like the way you linked that opinion with the reality of the statistics.

    • Ayush

      Thank you. Yes, what is surprising is the 6 assists which is more than the likes of hazard and Oscar. He is quickly becoming a cult favorite.

  • haha

    please try to be more pro-liverpool.. at least.. more solid in defending your team..
    this site still gives me a feeling that its a manc- glorifying one.. IMPROVE!

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