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This is a question I’ve heard asked by Liverpool and England supporters in equal measure. Some Liverpool supporters believe Henderson is merely filling a gap until Jurgen Klopp brings in a stronger midfielder, whereas some England supporters dislike the fact Henderson is taking up a place in the first eleven, a place that could be occupied by one of the talents from their own domestic clubs. Yet Jurgen Klopp was willing to play Henderson this season even though he could hardly walk at times and Roy Hodgson played the midfielder for the whole ninety minutes against Germany even though he was not short of options. What is it that managers see in Henderson that some fans don’t?

There is one statistic more than anything else that might give us a clue – since Henderson has played for Liverpool we have won 50% of games with him on the pitch and only 31% when he has been absent. For this season alone we’ve won 60% of games with Henderson present and only 21.4% when he’s been missing. This trend is the same for every year Henderson has been at the club, we win significantly more games when he plays compared to when he doesn’t. This is not a coincidence, Henderson is actively affecting the outcome of games but if you were to ask a selection of supporters exactly how he does this you’ll probably be met with blank stares.

In my opinion, the fundamental mistake people make when assessing Henderson is that they think a team should consist of eleven players with individual flair. It may perhaps be more useful to think of a team, be it Liverpool or England, as being like a wall with some players taking the role of bricks and others taking the role of mortar. If the likes of Kane and Sturridge can be considered as bricks in this scenario then Henderson is most definitely the mortar. Managers like Henderson because he’s a cohesive element a team, joining the front and back ranks like mortar joins bricks.

Henderson does not do flair, he does competent and that is a quality that shouldn’t be underestimated. If we look at the recent England victory over Germany Henderson was tasked with more roles than any other player on the pitch – he was asked to quickly distribute the ball from the backs to the forwards, to close down and press opposition players when they had the ball, to shield the back line should the opposition make a break, to get in the opposition box to add numbers to any attack, to fill in should players be caught out of position, to take corners and to take free kicks. The next time someone asks what it is Henderson actually does just point them towards this game and suggest they watch it closely. He does much more than people tend to realise.

This is not to say he does all of these things well, his finishing still leaves a lot to be desired, but most of what he does allows his sides to maintain an upbeat tempo and a degree of control over oppositions. Because he helps his teams establish these elements it then allows players of conspicuous talent – such as Vardy, Kane, Sturridge and Coutinho – to take advantage. It’s quite rare these days for a side with Henderson in it to lose control of the midfield, if this does happen it usually means he and his teammates have been outnumbered in that department.

Something that has annoyed me somewhat was the rather harsh criticism that Henderson received which did not take into account the debilitating injuries he has suffered this season. No only did he fracture his foot but he was also plagued with a condition called plantar fasciitis, a condition that required Henderson to play on with a stabbing pain in his heel until a muscle in the underside of his foot ruptured, which it eventually did over a number of months. It is extremely difficult to gauge Henderson’s progress this season as these conditions have infringed on his performances so heavily. There were times it was clearly visible that he was in discomfort when standing on one foot or running and yet he still put in his trademark effort. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for him, having all the will to play but not the physical freedom to do so. One can’t help but wonder whether the likes of Daniel Sturridge would’ve shown such determination if afflicted with the same injury.

There is a movement among certain websites, most noticeably This Is Anfield, to have Henderson relinquish the captaincy to Emre Can, a player some believe to be more dynamic and a natural leader. Such websites suggest the captaincy is weighing too heavily on Henderson’s shoulders. To these assertions I would just retort that Henderson spent months on the sidelines followed by months playing in pain, how could we possibly obtain a clear picture of how he was dealing with the captaincy under such circumstances? Also, the role of the modern captain is one as much off the pitch as on it. Henderson deals with both media and corporate responsibilities with ease whereas I’ve never even heard Emre Can speak. Those who think Henderson is too passive as a captain should just recall the vocal encouragement he gave the returning Flanagan throughout the City game. It seems some people have a picture in their heads of the type of captain they want to see, usually a Gerrard clone, but in reality we are unlikely to see a captain of that ilk ever again. It would be dangerous to dismiss others as being unsuitable just because they can’t reach an unobtainable standard.

It would be wrong to say all in the media are underwhelmed by Henderson, in truth there is a spectrum of opinions regarding the player. As an experiment I scanned numerous publications the day after the Germany game to see how Henderson had rated and unsurprisingly the scores he received differed noticeably. The BBC Sport website were somewhat unconvinced by his performance giving it a very restrained five whereas The Guardian considered his display essential to the victory thus scoring him an enthusiastic eight. Other publications scored Henderson sixes and sevens thereby underlining the lack of consensus on whether Henderson benefits the England setup or not.

In reality, Henderson is simply one of those players you either buy into or you don’t. With his upright running style he’ll never win any awards for being the most graceful of footballers. However, if there is one streak that runs through his whole Liverpool career it’s one of determination. Even when factors beyond his control have left him at a disadvantage Henderson has always put in a shift. I disagree with those who want a more dynamic player as a captain. Yes, players like Can may be swashbuckling in their attacks but in the role Henderson is given for both Liverpool and England he gets to orchestrate play and with every match his reading of the game will improve. I like having a captain who acts as an overseer, who can see the nuances in a game and affect it directly. I believe this is a role Henderson currently inhabits and given a little time, and luck with injuries, he could become an intelligent player who will assist Klopp greatly in his aims. As the sports writer Henry Jackson put it, ‘He will never be a world-class footballer, or a consistent match-winner, but players of his ilk can be integral to the success of any team.’

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DB-99
Member

Great blog. I’m one who is a big fan of Hendo. Many fans compare him to Stevie by virtue that he is now captain of the team and I think that’s really unfair. Tbh I’ve seen plenty of flair from Hendo. He is capable of placing through balls, long diagonals and also being a creative spark from midfield. He’s has a tough time with injuries off late so he needs time to get back to his best and gain form and confidence. Klopp has kept Hendo as captain and if he didn’t fancy him, he wouldn’t be playing. I trust the judgement of our managers and believe he is one of most underrated players in the team. Given time im sure more fans will warm to him but i get annoyed by their reactions and angry outbursts against our players.

DB-99
Member

I forgot to add, in that 13/14 season, it was no coincidence that while he was suspended we lost our way. Against Watford, the team was performing pathetically and we lost the game 3-0 but Hendo was one player who performed in that game while others let the team down. I fear he is going to go down as one of those unsung heroes throughout his career but he will have those that really support him.

KLOPPite
Member
This season has been tough on him but I think the addition of Milner and the growth of Can have been a benefit. Let’s not forget that the unit of a team is made up of sub-units…back 4, attackers, and midfield. If fullbacks abandon defense that put more pressure on center backs. If other midfielders are always out of position that weighs on others. Hendo has developed a maturity of responsibility in reading those around him as well as the flow of the game to see what he should be doing to react. This has allowed Can to grow, Coutinho to attack, Allen to get forward, And Firmino and Lallana to flow and interchange freely. Their development is all facilitated in large part by Mr Reliable. That doesn’t make him “sexy”, but it does make him valuable. He does need to work on his finishing, but I think he can improve that be technically he is very capable. Watch how many times he will receive a pass by no-look flicking it on diagonal 20 yards inch perfect. Or how he switches play with a forty yard diagonal to a storming full back. So I think the quality is there for… Read more »
sandiphulse
Member

Henderson and Milner will be with LFC , we already have lot of flair and Klopp will be buy in the summer was well, unfortunately for Hendo according to the reports, it was said he has to play through the pain, hopefully he will be more fitter, it’s not easy to get a box to box mid fielder these days… once he is able to find the net, he will silence the critics and most of these critics are not true LFC supporters, they are mostly from media, who will say anything to cook up transfer stories…

warrior18
Member
Excellent read sam, cheers. What i love about hendo is the first thing he does when he receives the ball is look straight up to see if there’s a forward pass on, none of this sideways or backwards passing, always looking for that 30-40 yard pass that can break open a defense, very gerrard like. I’m sure he’s read the comparisions and actively thinks about it when on the pitch and 7-8 times out of 10 that pass will come off. He may never be an all round world class player but at times he does some world class things. As for Can as our captain, no chance, too young, too inexperienced. I’m all for hendo having the armband right now but for me there’s only one player to captain LFC next season and that’s flanno. I’ve always thought a captain should be a player in defence, back there he can see the whole game in front of him and gives him the best chance to organise his team properly. Another reason why i’d love flanno as our captain is obvious, he’s a local lad and for him to have that armband would mean everything to him and the anfield… Read more »
KLOPPite
Member

Ooh I think Flanno as Captain could be potentially bad.
How often is a player who has been captain a couple years had it stripped from him and given to someone else? Especially someone who is younger and has played less and frankly has had some shaky (if not a few poor ones) moments in his limited time back?
It would be a huge slap to Hendo, and even a little one to Vice Captain Milner.
As a defender Flanno will hopefully have a nice long career ahead of him. There will most likely be time to be Captain after Hendo has moved on/retired. Making a change now would bevunsettlingvand might make Hendo want to move in afraid because of the signal it would send.

warrior18
Member
@Kloppite, RedUncle, I wouldn’t be too concerned about milner mate, i thought it was awful when he got given the armband and he only at the club a wet day when there was players at the club for years and more than capable of being the vice captain, i’m thinking skrtel and lucas to name but two. I think the type of character that hendo is, and he’s proven it in the past, is that if the armband was taken from him and flanno got it he would take that on the chin and carry on regardless, i think he’d understand and except the reasons why, if flanno was to be made captain. Seen that there’s only two years difference in their ages i don’t think experience comes into it, in fact, seen that flanno has come up through the academy’s and made his way to the first team speaks volumes for the guy and i think he fully deserves a chance to captain his club next season, at 23 he’s not a kid, in football terms and was a vital part of the team when we nearly won the lge back in the 13-14 season, like i said earlier,… Read more »
Huytonian
Member

The captain needs to be someone who is starting almost every match when fit. That’s the only reason Rooney got it for England though whether he continues to be a regular starter remains to be seen with the progress of Kane, Alli etc.

Much as I love Flanno I don’t see him as a player who will be a regular starter next season especially if we buy a new left back. Despite new mid-fielders coming in I would still see Hendo as a regular starter so would keep the captain’s armband with him. I don’t think he’s been a bad captain. Look at him leading by example in the miserable defeat to Watford and his encouragement of Flanno in the City game. I think’s it’s more his injuries than the weight of the captaincy that have affected him this season.

Huytonian
Member

Superb blog Uncle. I agree 100%. Football isn’t just about skill it’s about attitude and players like Henderson are essential to any team. This has obviously been a difficult season for him with his injuries but I thought the Germany game was his best for some time and I’m hopeful that next season we will see the Hendo of old.

KLOPPite
Member

Btw, good read Uncle

Koped49
Member

Really good blog, the the problem hendo has with his heel, is that it will take time to heal, and there is more than a big chance he will have to live with it as it does not always heals. So th play on As he has, with the niggling pain which is constant because with it being in the heel he is on it and using it every day. And I do t think there is any surgery that will help? But time will tell
So I think he is doing a good job, playing and training through this is commendable.

Huytonian
Member

When my wife had the same heel condition as Hendo we were told there was no operation for it but it usually clears up of its own accord by 18 months (my wife’s was ok after a year). I read Hendo’s started March 2015 so hopefully by September it should be ok. However it could be that playing and training on it may affect the recovery. He’s showing great character to play with the condition as it can be excruciatingly painful.

warrior18
Member

Have to say, i’m a bit surprised at the lack of backing for flanno as our captain next season. If i remember correctly was gerrard not made captain at 23??? and we know how that panned out. I know gerrard was in the first team from the age of 17 but flanno has got a few years first team experience now and i think he would turn out to be as big a captain for us as gerrard was, maybe i’m just desperate to see a scouser being our captain again 🙄 🙄

Koped49
Member

Think he will be a great leader for us, just needs to get a settled run in the team and I think he will be made captain

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