Jordan Henderson was impressive in Central Midfield against Crystal Palace. Is it time for Rodgers to consider him for a regular partnership with Steven Gerrard in the heart of midfield?

Brendan Rodgers needs to stop playing Jordan Henderson out of position

Why the over-tinkering?

In all of Liverpool FC’s matches so far, every time Brendan Rodgers has tried to employ a player out of his natural position, it has not fared well for the team and has not reflected well on his management techniques. Be it the currently injured Philippe Coutinho vs. Aston Villa, where he was employed on the left wing, or be it Victor Moses employed in the No.10 position against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, or be it the ever-improving Jordan Henderson playing as a right winger vs. Sunderland: they all looked decidedly uncomfortable.

Even though on paper, Henderson created 4 chances in the game against Sunderland, he looked thoroughly confused for the most part. He had much space on the right flank and was continuously fed balls by Steven Gerrard from the center. However, he was completely out of sorts; he got enough space and time on various occasions but was unable to utilize it.

Jordan’s Resurgence Against Crystal Palace

This same Jordan Henderson who annoyed many Liverpool supporters in the games against United and Sunderland was a revelation against Crystal Palace. What the Kop faithful witnessed was a magnificent performance from the 22 year old. The man who became the poster boy for Kenny Dalglish’s failed transfer policy was an absolute treat to watch in the match against the Eagles.

Jordan Henderson was involved in everything happening in the match. Looking at his statistically, he received the ball from his teammates 60 times in the match and completed 92% (69/75) passes. He had a success rate of 100% (19/19) passes in the defensive areas and 91.6% (11/12) moving forward into the attacking third.

Jordan Henderson's Passes vs Crystal Palace

Jordan Henderson: Passes vs Crystal Palace

The Liverpool midfielder who is often said to be the ‘next Gerrard’ was imperative in keeping things smooth and easy alongside Gerrard in the heart of the midfield. With the assistance from Raheem Sterling on the right wing and Jose Enrique at left wing-back, Crystal Palace’s midfield struggled to find any space to break through into Liverpool’s half and were contained in the middle of the pitch. Henderson, along with the aforementioned Liverpool players, made it fairly easy for the defenders especially in the first half. The trio of Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel hardly faced any attacking threats from the Palace players.

Jordan Henderson Heat Map vs Crystal Palace

Jordan Henderson: Heat Map vs Crystal Palace

In terms of attack, Henderson didn’t create any chances against Palace, but this was due to a change in responsibility which involved making sure Lucas Leiva would not be missed. If you look at the heat map above, you can see that he took his defensive duties seriously and spent a large part of the match in Liverpool’s half. From a defensive point of view he was robust, winning the ball far more frequently than usual. His confidence was obviously high as he attempted a lot more tackles. He rarely gave away the ball and there were few misplaced passes.

The fact that Leiva has not been at his defensive best so far this season has meant that Gerrard had to shoulder more of the defensive responsibilities. But the more assured presence of Henderson allowed the Liverpool captain the freedom to advance. Gerrard assisted Moses, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez with through balls, and made the Liverpool’s attack blossom

Henderson’s influence in this match epitomized his campaign after Rodgers has taken over. It could be summed up in one word-consistent.

On Track On His Learning Curve

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson - Has he earned his place in central midfield?

Has he earned his place in central midfield?

Henderson’s renaissance continues. There is no doubt that he puts in his best in every match and fully commits to the team. His work rate and work ethic are highly commendable. Where the former Sunderland midfielder shines is in his energy. Henderson is constantly running across the pitch, covering every blade of grass.  The fact that he is clearly maturing, both with his temperament on the field and his skills as a player, should only make everyone associated with Liverpool very happy.

The Liverpool manager seems to agree:

“I am really pleased with him and his development. He’s been fantastic for us so far this season. He’s a great boy and tactically he’s improved a lot. He is thinking about the game and his positioning on the field and has become a very important member of our squad”.

However, the place where he lacks is that more often than not, he becomes a one-half player. In the first half he does well, provides some superb touches and almost always has a few decent shots at goal himself. However, the break somehow proves to be a distraction and the performance considerably deteriorates in the second half. A problem he shares with Jose Enrique. If he can work on this dimension of his game, Henderson can certainly improve and can truly be the player Dalglish spent £16m on.