Jordan Henderson arrived in 2011 as one of English football’s bright young things, and was part of Kenny Dalglish’s master plan to once again rebuild the midfield around Steven Gerrard. While growing pains were to be expected, coming from being a young Captain of a struggling Sunderland side to the always ambitious, somewhat rejuvenated Liverpool under a manager who had seen and done it all in the game, he clearly struggled being mostly deployed on the wing opposite Stewart Downing, whilst Charlie Adam and Gerrard occupied the midfield.Embed from Getty Images
However, that all changed when Brendan Rodgers took over. Rodgers seemed to understand that Hendo needed guidance, and seemed to allow Stevie to take him under his wing as it eventually became obvious that the man once adored by his hometown club would be groomed to take the armband from one of the greatest captains that his own boyhood team had ever seen.
After flat out rejecting a move to Fulham in an attempt to lure Clint Dempsey to Merseyside in what became known as a bullet dodged by the Anfield faithful, Henderson quickly became a linchpin in the side, his dynamism making his dismissal against Man City in 13/14 perhaps just as important as Gerrard’s infamous slip in not being able to secure our first league title since 1990.
Since then, a diagnosis of Plantar Fascitis has kept him out off and on since the original injury occurred, as is the case given the chronic nature of the injury. Though it has become more manageable over time, the injury has prevented him from reaching the level of which we saw during the title challenge.
In recent years under Jurgen Klopp, the midfield has undergone more than one reshuffle, perhaps none more forward thinking than this past summers’, with the arrival of Naby Keita and Fabinho being two of our biggest acquisitions in the window. This has meant less and less time for the skipper, something that has puzzled some, while others feel indifferent, or even vindicated by it.
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The biggest factor, however, is how Henderson himself reacts. We saw how Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet dealt with Alisson Becker’s signing, and though Henderson seems the ultimate professional, even the advent of Gini Wijnaldum — probably his closest competitor for a first team spot — In the past six to eight months has surely seen his head drop a little.
The simple answer is that Jordan Henderson must adapt to his role if he has any future at Liverpool. There are games in which you need Henderson’s pass and move approach, to slow it down and control games. But in matches where a more attacking, stylistic approach is needed, Henderson is often seen as the weakest link.
Henderson may be captain, but as fans, we may have seen the best of Jordan Henderson. His quality as part of the side during the last two to three months of 17/18 and at the World Cup was there for all to see, and yet he hasn’t hit the ground running as of yet this year, and with those ready to step in and up around him, it may be time for him to adapt to a less involved role if he has any chance of prolonging his Liverpool career.