Jordan Henderson is finally showing his true worth for Liverpool. The youngster, who joined from Sunderland, was immensely talented but people have often treated him as a scapegoat up until this season, largely because of his price-tag, something which he didn’t have any control over.
Brendan Rodgers couldn’t have forgiven himself had he sanctioned a release order for the midfielder. There were talks about selling him to Fulham, when Rodgers took charge. The youngster was shocked when he was told about a possible transfer, but he wanted to stay and show his mettle. Not only did he succeed, but he did it with some vim and vigour.
In the second half of last season, entire Liverpool team progressed a lot, which is reflected in the points table as well. Along with the new signings, who imparted a positive impact, one cannot ignore the gradual rise of Henderson. And one of the positives that has evolved is that Henderson, affectionately called by Liverpool fans as Hendo, is gradually becoming a big-match-player for the club.
That doesn’t mean, he is useless against weaker oppositions, but he is the managers’ first choice player now against any big opposition.
Big matches bring with them, added pressure, where along with talent, other essential qualities are required. Henderson brings an extra element of energy into the squad. He chases every ball, tirelessly down his channel, maintains the position perfectly and most importantly maintains an admirable level of concentration throughout the game.
But he is not just about energy only. He brings lot more to the game. He has an excellent control over the world, has an eye for passes and has progressed a lot under Rodgers to get himself into a goal scoring position.
Against Manchester United, he was outstanding. Deployed on the right hand side of the pitch, his job was primarily two-fold –a) give a strong protection to Glenn Johnson by tracking down their wingers and b) to join the attack linking up with other forwards.
If we notice in the chalkboard (Deep Blue arrows – successful passing, Red- Failed pass & Light Blue – Chance created), his positional discipline come forefront. He mainly stayed on the flanks but while defending drifted slightly in to help the central midfielders out. Apart from creating one delightful chance, passing on to the flanks on couple of occasions, he kept busy in retaining the possession through short, crisp passing. He showed extreme composure while playing passes in the defensive third as well.
In the second half of the match, when United were pressing hard for an equalizer, Henderson had put in defensive shifts, to help Johnson and then young Andre Wisdom (who came on as sub) from the threat of United wingers. He made three successful clearing and three perfectly times tackles, two of them outside the penalty box.
But, this is not the first time he has looked good in big matches. Last season, Liverpool drew two successive away fixtures, against Arsenal and Manchester City, where undoubtedly he was the star of the show for the Reds.
If we look at the dashboard (passes, Yellow- assist for goal), we will see he was omnipotent that day. On that occasion, he was playing on the right hand side too. But he was given slightly free role to operate and that’s why we find so many key passes in the attacking third and the number of time he played passes from the centre of the midfield, which is his natural position.
Against Manchester City he was equally brilliant. But on that day, he was played on the left hand side, which is not his familiar position. But the pass graphs are more-or-less similar to the ones against Manchester United, only the sides are different.
Right at the edge of the box, he had to cover a mistake from Enrique and made a terrific successful interception that day along with three other successful tackles, while was involved in a goal box clearance too.
Henderson, like Lucas, had to work hard to prove his true quality. Though not all the Liverpool fans are still convinced with him, but he is slowly winning the hearts of everyone. If he continues to progress like this, in no time, he will be treated as one of the asset for this iconic club.