One of the hallmarks of FSG’s takeover of Liverpool FC, was the realization that it would bring Liverpool some much needed financial muscle in the transfer window. John Henry & Co have made no secret of their desire to splash the green. And although the dealings will only happen behind closed doors, everyone knows that Liverpool FC now have the dough to go out there and try and acquire their targets. It’s still early days, but the signs are promising. Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish have spent a good amount of time studying different targets and have now begun to put their plan into action. 21 year-old Jordan Henderson is their first catch – and it might be a good idea to haul him under the microscope.
Jordan Brian Henderson
The Early Years
Henderson was born in Sunderland on June 17, 1990. Right from the age of 7, he was a part of the Sunderland academy and has grown through the ranks swiftly having represented England in the U-19, U-20 and U-21 squads. He can play in the central midfield role as well as on the right flank and is said to be comfortable with both feet.
Henderson’s first taste of Premier League football came by in November 2008 when he was brought on as a second half substitute for Sunderland in a game against Chelsea. Roy Keane, the manager at the time, clearly saw his ability to improve and in January 2009 decided to send out the player on loan to Coventry City in order to gain further first team experience. This loan spell however, was short-lived as Henderson suffered a metatarsal injury and had to return to the club in April 2009.
Sunny Days At Sunderland
Henderson’s return to Sunderland was a blessing in disguise. The player broke into the first squad in the 2009/10 season and made a phenomenal 33 appearances in his first season. This speaks volumes of his abilities and consistency. Henderson enjoyed a rich first season at the club primarily because of the absence of Lee Cattermole due to injury. The young man however rose to the occasion with a sense of composure and maturity rare in a player of his age. His hard work and dedication paid off at the end of the season as he won Sunderland’s Young Player of the Year award.
Henderson – A Rising Star
If the 2009/10 season was good, the 2010/11 season was even better. Henderson was ranked third in the list of those who created the most number of chances. Only Kevin Davies (Bolton) and Florent Malouda (Chelsea) had more. The player also notched up an impressive 74% pass percentage along with 3 goals and 4 assists. Manchester United and Manchester City were both vying for his signature in the January transfer window but no deal materialized. Liverpool, however, wasted little time in the summer. They had found their man.
Strengths & Character
Henderson’s biggest asset is actually combination of several attributes. A central midfielder who can drift out to the right, and might actually want to stay out there. Statistics prove that Henderson has had a more productive game playing on the right than in the centre.
Fellow England teammates Darren Bent and Martin Kelly have heaped praise on the youngster noting that his tendency to keep matters simple is what makes him a big player.
“The thing I like about him most is that he keeps it nice and simple. You can give him the ball under pressure and he will always keep it, even in the tightest situations.” – Martin Kelly on Henderson.
Henderson is said to be a player who lets his football do the talking for him. With a calm, well-behaved and down-to-earth attitude, he carries himself off as an individual who can handle matters off the pitch as well as on the pitch.
“When someone tells him he can’t do something or that he’s not good enough, it’s straight on to the training ground to prove them wrong.” – Darren Bent on Henderson.
Henderson is said to have very high work rate and brings unflagging energy levels. This will be music to Kenny Dalglish’s ears. If deployed on the right, his inclusion will take off a lot of pressure off the shoulders of Dirk Kuyt who has, so far been the incumbent in that position. One of the biggest reasons for Henderson’s rapid rise is his behavior with the ball at his feet. The player has an impressive first touch and vision in the game. His performances for Sunderland last season were highly consistent and prove just how good a midfielder he is, and how much more he can be given the right atmosphere. Liverpool, under Dalglish, might be the right club for Henderson to make a name for himself in the Barclays Premier League.
The fact that Jordan Henderson is just 20 years old would not have been lost on Comolli and Dalglish. In fact, the wily duo might not have purchased him despite his relative infancy, but because of it. Henderson is clearly a man for the future, and not just a boy for the present.
There isn’t much to criticize about Henderson simply because he is just 20 years old and can still be moulded. His most apparent weakness is that he is not strong enough to feature in central midfield and is better off playing in the right attacking position. This however, is an inference based on conjecture and not on observation. Furthermore, Liverpool have not stated his playing position just yet.
Taking off the lustre a little bit more, is the fact that Henderson’s goal scoring record as an attacking midfielder has been quite poor. The midfielder scored just 3 goals last season after having made 37 appearances in the league. Those are records you associate with a defensive midfielder. His good right foot and his eye for a pass notwithstanding, his goal scoring form is something he will need to work on.
Possible Role at Liverpool
The need to purchase a winger for both flanks was of utmost importance for Liverpool FC prior to the start of the next season. However, in Henderson, they have purchased a versatile player who is capable of spearheading the attack from the right of the pitch. His pace and ball control, coupled with his good crossing ability makes him the ideal man to support the likes of Gerrard, Carroll and Suarez.
From the looks of it, Henderson’s role in the squad could be slightly altered when it comes to the other domestic competitions such as the FA Cup and the Carling Cup. With Liverpool not featuring in Europe in next season, Dalglish will need to focus that gaze of his on these domestic competitions and the young talent coming in to build the “Liverpool of the future”. On that measure, Henderson is surely going to be a lynchpin.