Often the scapegoat, unfairly compared to Gerrard and only passes sideways. Sound familiar? Jordan Henderson has been under the microscope ever since becoming captain of our great club and faced the impossible task of following the recently retired Steven Gerrard. Though realistically he was never replacing Gerrard as captain but becoming the new style captain with his own adaptations and this season with injuries behind him, he’s showing every attribute needed for the job.
I believe we’re starting to see a much more mature Henderson, which was evident in the Merseyside derby after that horrific tackle from Barkley. Many a player would of lost his head in that moment and who would’ve blamed him after the manner of the challenge. Not Henderson though. He stood his ground but didn’t let the occasion get to him. A special mention for the post match interview as he avoided journalists looking for headlines and simply replied that “Barkley’s a good lad and felt he simply mistimed the tackle.” With a grin ” you’re going to get them in derby games.” True professionalism.
As for the criticism of the direction of Henderson’s passes well as fans of course we want constant attacking balls being flung forwards, but there’s so much more to our play these days. It’s more to do with opposition teams sitting so deep due to our array of attackers waiting to pounce. We’re learning to patiently build up attacks and Henderson’s passes are often switching wings or little one/twos to create space. You’ll regularly see him between the center backs switching the ball between them making it far more difficult for opponents to press the back four as he’s always available for a pass. It’s better that he doesn’t continuously attempt ludicrous forward passes that may expose us to the counter attacking moment these bus parking teams are waiting for. Often it’s the same people that moan we can’t break deep sitting teams down that moan when Henderson’s attempting to create the space with short passing to break though on goal in a packed midfield/defence. Even with that most of his passes are attack minded with him playing a defensive midfield role this season which after all the talk of us desperately needing a proper DM, in my eyes this is another piece of clever wit from Jürgen. He is relishing the mix of defensive duties and getting in the mix going forward. Personally I’m very happy to have Henderson as captain and think there’s a few who need to put their hands up and except he’s improved drastically under Klopp. He’s completed the most passes (1297) in the Premier League by some distance with Pogba second and 340 behind our skipper, not just pointless passes either he’s created 27 chances and has 4 assists to his name. Not forgetting that unforgettable screamer at Stamford Bridge. Another example player to Jürgen’s motto “doubters to believers.”
The grit and determination we showed against Everton I found so impressive. They threw absolutely everything at us in that first half yet we just soaked up the pressure, easily preventing them from getting a look in at goal. The fact it was at Goodison park and in fairness to Everton, was a cauldron of noise is such a testament to the character of our players. It reminded me of the old famous boxing fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire where Ali used his experience to outsmart his opponent by simply letting Foreman punch himself out. When Foreman’s legs were gone Ali capitalised and landed the killer blow. I feel this is exactly what happened in the Merseyside derby, at halftime I kept thinking we’re far superior in fitness and creativity, we’ll land the killer blow. Firstly Lovren and Klavan had such a strong performance with 5 interceptions, 18 clearances, 3 tackles and 7 headers between them. To think Klavan was supposed to be a simple, foot through the ball back up option but he’s proving to be more than capable of playing out from the back to help push the midfield up the pitch. The manner in which he dealt with Lukaku was immense and his composure on the ball is exactly the kind of nerve you need in a game as hostile as the derby. Also the midfield press and strength was one of the main reasons their chances were limited, it has a very nice balance to it with Henderson, Wijnaldum and Lallana. A game Perfectly finished off with Sturridge’s bit of magic and Mané’s electric pace left me in complete hysterics, waking up whole street. It’s left me even more optimistic about our title hopes not because of who we beat but the winning mentality. We all knew we could play full throttle football but in this game, similar to the Chelsea performance highlighted our ability to battle all over the pitch and take our chances to steal victory. We seem to be wising up to the negative tactics many are opting to use against us and are being clever enough to know when to mix it up and go long to confuse opponents then once the space opens up reverting back to fast pressing with quick interchanging play.
The season is long but we’re fast proving we’re no one trick pony and adaptable to whatever the occasion.
Keep believing, up the Reds.
Thanks for reading Reds.
written by Ben Webb.