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The Unsung Hero at the Heart of Liverpool’s Midfield

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Jordan Henderson – Liverpool

While it’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané who take the acclaim from adoring fans and pundits alike, it’s Liverpool’s man in the centre of the park who deserves the most credit – Jordan Henderson.

The Reds captain has been instrumental in the rise of Jurgen Klopp’s side, consistently proving the doubters wrong as one of Europe’s top midfield talents.

Ever since the former Borussia Dortmund manager arrived at Anfield, there has been speculation about who should be signed to augment the midfield. Yet, as always, ‘Hendo’ has remained steadfast, pushed himself and shown himself to be capable of filling the boots of the legendary Steven Gerrard.

Although the former Sunderland man may not boast the swashbuckling talent of his predecessor, he was equally as deserving of holding the Champions League trophy aloft when Liverpool beat Tottenham in Madrid’s final last summer.

If there were still doubters after that triumph in 2019, they have all surely been dispersed after his excellent season this term, with his side near perfect in search of a first Premier League title.

Yet, let’s not be mistaken: the England international is not just a passionate and determined workhouse. He is a man at the top of his craft and arguably one of the game’s most accomplished box to box midfielders.

In an era where they are few and far between, Henderson has become the ultimate box to box man, mixing his impressive defensive ability with a knack of making the difference in the attacking third.

While he may not have the golden touch in front of goal of the likes of Gerrard and Frank Lampard, he has a passing range and lung capacity that even those two men would be envious of – as well as progressing further in a World Cup than either men.

Since the arrival of Brazilian holding midfielder Fabinho, Henderson has emerged as real force on the right side of a three man midfield, forging a devastating partnership with attacking full back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

As Klopp’s men have matured under his tenure, his high-pressing style has perhaps been somewhat altered, yet Henderson remains a willing runner and a man with an end product.

Similarly, for his country, the 29-year-old has become arguably England’s only guaranteed starter in midfield and was vital as they reached the semi final in Russia in 2018 – even if he did miss a spot kick in the nail-biting penalty shootout against Colombia.

With England struggling for a presence in holding midfield – as Liverpool were pre-Fabinho – the one-time Coventry loanee has been forced to take a step back and perhaps play in an ill-suited role.

Chelsea's English midfielder Frank Lampa
Henderson on-loan at Coventry City holding off Frank Lampard | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

While he rarely let his club or his country down in that more reserved role, his move to more of a number eight has been beneficial to all parties.

With Gareth Southgate seeking to develop an aggressive and attacking England side capable of toppling Europe’s elite, Henderson will remain a vital cog in a young and relatively inexperienced machine.

As mentioned previously, his rise to the top has been anything but smooth sailing, after initially struggling to make an impact following his £16m move to the Reds back in 2011 under Kenny Dalglish.

Although the legendary Dalglish had plenty of faith in his young star, his replacement Brendan Rodgers was less convinced and sought to use the Englishman in a swap deal for Fulham‘s Clint Dempsey.

Luckily for everyone involved – perhaps apart from Clint – the deal did not take place, with Henderson emerging as an integral part of Rodgers’ promising side.

Since then the Geordie’s stock has continued to rise, and he has now played 335 Premier League games in his career thus far.

Henderson during the 2019 Community Shield
Henderson during the 2019 Community Shield | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

As for this season, his talents at both ends of the pitch have been there for all to see, registering five assists as well as three goals.

At the other end, the midfield maestro has been equally as effective, making 148 recoveries as well as winning 101 duels, as he continues to break up play and mount attacks.

While he may not be the player with the highest number of assists or goals for the league leaders, his impact is there for all to see.

Not only a leader, Henderson is a match winner, and the type of player you’d want with you in the trenches when the going gets tough. These sort box to box mavericks are a dying breed in modern football, as players continually become too comfortable in more specialist positions.

Like the figures of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira before him, Henderson has developed into one of the Premier League’s most effective box-to-box players and only perhaps needs to add a few more goals to his name to truly assert himself as an English football great.

Yet, even without the goals and assists, the Englishman remains the irreplaceable engine in midfield at both domestic and international level – a fact that perhaps appeared unlikely even just a few years ago.





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