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

Jordan Henderson has played in three different positions this season

Henderson’s versatility and his ability to play in more than one position instantly makes him a manager’s dream. This attribute along with technical ability and athleticism has made him a regular member in the Reds’ starting eleven for the past few months. He has mostly been deployed on the right of the attacking front when Liverpool starts with a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1 formation, and most recently as a wing-back since Rodgers has favored the 3-4-1-2Ai?? Ai??formation. Many pundits point out that Henderson’s natural position is central midfield and he would fit in seamlessly at that position. Most recently, we got to see him excel in his favored central midfield role when Lucas was suspended against Palace.

The midfield has so far, been the least impressive aspect of Liverpool’s games this season. Henderson hasn’t really lit up the premier league with his performances, (barring the game against Crystal Palace), but has helped nonetheless both defensively and in the final third. In terms of the attack, Henderson has been one of Liverpool’s main creative outlets this term. Not normally associated with the chicanery, vision and the ability to execute final passes like PhilipeAi??Coutinho, Henderson instead makes himself available around the edge of the box, plays lay-offs and tries to win the ball back high up the pitch whenever possible.

With the current 3-4-1-2 system that Rodgers has become quite a fan of, Henderson would best be utilized as the second central midfielder, with a capable defensive player behind and beside him who can orchestrate the play from midfield. With Gerrard in the team though, Henderson’s only option is to try toAi??transform into a full fledgedAi??defensive midfielder and challenge Lucas` position in the first team, or else continue to feature in the right-sided role he has become very much accustomed to. Liverpool set up their attack with the dynamic SAS partnership, Victor Moses from the No. 10 role ever since Coutinho`s injury at the Liberty stadium, and Henderson providing support from the right.

Henderson has done well  playing in the center with captain Gerrard.

Henderson has done well playing in the center with captain Gerrard.

Deploying Henderson in the central role and leaving Gerrard as the deep lying play maker could help Liverpool solve some of their woes in midfield.

It would enable them to counter quickly with Henderson’s fine sprinting abilities , and Liverpool’s defense would get better protection from Henderson than Lucas is currently capable of providing and would leave the right hand side free for Ai??natural options like Glen Johnson or Martin Kelly to fit into.

Stats wise, Henderson is one of the only two non-defenders in the squad to have won an average of one aerial duel per game, has made the second-highest number of tackles this season, has the best number of clearances out of any non-central defender in the squad, has a 93 percent success rate on long passes. In terms of passing, Henderson sits fourth in the list of passes completed with his completion rate of 86 percent behind the two centre halves in Martin SkrtelAi??andAi??MamadouAi??SakhoAi?? as well as the defensive midfielder in LucasAi??Leiva. He has even unleashed more shots on goal than most of the Liverpool players.

One aspect of his game, which needs a thorough overhaul, is his ability to score goals or make assists. He has to improve his goals tally from last season (he managed only 5). Henderson’s crossing has been abysmal, with just two accurate deliveries from twenty one attempts, and he hasn’t yet scored a goal or an assist this season.

If Henderson manages to fine tune these important aspects in his game, then there is a very high probability of him playing in his favorite central midfield position and leading Liverpool`s midfield in the coming years. If his performances are eye-catching and consistent this season and if he manages to nick some goals for Liverpool this season, Roy Hodgson would be tempted to make use of his abilities and induct him into the three lions` set-up and we might also get to see him in Brazil next year.

Tactically speaking, Henderson has done a jolly good job of playing well in several positions and to his credit, has gone about his job with no fuss whatsoever. He’ll feel he’s done enough to earn the right to be an automatic choice in the first team for now, and if Liverpool intend to keep themselves in the top four this season and in theAi?? longer term, they should make use of Henderson’s versatility and help him develop even more as a player.

by Rahul Ravi

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