???️ Here’s the problem with Jordan Henderson…

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I think it’s fair to say that it hasn’t been a great week for Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. He’s been criticized repeatedly for the role he’s played in 2 disappointing results in the last 7 days, and even his status as captain has come into question. Of course, Twitter can be a cancerous place, as can any social media platform. I hope Jordan has the willpower to swerve it for a few days if he feels he’s put in a bad performance, because the volume of hate in LFC’s Twitter world is quite substantial sometimes. I’ve been a big fan of Henderson all this time. I think he does plenty of things on the football pitch that people don’t recognise, and I think a bulk of the criticism over the years he’s been captain is because people became accustomed to our captain being Steven Gerrard, and were expecting very much the same type of player out of Jordan. Now in his 3rd season of being the club captain, I think it should be apparent that he’s not the same type of player as Gerrard at all, but a large chunk of people still aren’t recognizing this. That being said, I agree he perhaps could be doing more on the pitch to go towards solving Liverpool’s problem of ‘game management’ we’ve been having. Tuesday was the perfect example of this. A big outcry from the fans after Tuesday’s 3-3 draw with Sevilla was that there was ‘lack of leadership’ on the pitch. There was no one who really controlled the game from a Liverpool point of view, and to be honest I do agree with this, just not to the extent that I will passionately tweet at Henderson or the club itself to inform him he was poor. A few years back, on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football with Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, the pair were asked to rank Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes in order of who they thought was the best player. Neville, of course, said Paul Scholes and his reason for this (other than being blatantly biased) was that he admired Scholes’ ability to control the tempo of a football match. He said “Scholes is a unique talent. He controls the tempo of a whole football match. He knew when to play long passes, when to play short passes, when to actually slow a game down.” Now, I don’t actually agree that Scholes was better than Lampard or Gerrard, but that’s a debate for another day. What I do want to talk about is the points he’s raised about Scholes that we can relate to Jordan Henderson. We talk about ‘controlling the tempo of a football match’, I don’t think Henderson has the ability to do this. Maybe some will disagree with me, but if you are playing in the anchored number 6 role, and you’re wearing the captain’s armband, I think this needs to be a key aspect of your game, and Hendo doesn’t have it. We needed to see it on Tuesday in Sevilla. When Sevilla got their first goal shortly after the second half had kicked off, we needed Jordan Henderson to recognize that Liverpool needed to slow the game down, and keep the ball for a period to weather the storm. I suppose that recognizing this and actually being able to do it are two seperate things, because I certainly saw no evidence of Henderson being able to get his foot on the ball and steady the ship by controlling the game from midfield. Now to be fair to him, I didn’t think he had enough coverage around him, he needs protection himself when Liverpool don’t have the ball, otherwise he’ll be being pulled here, there and everywhere by opposition players and criticized when not giving the back 4 ‘enough’ coverage. I think Jurgen Klopp certainly has a problem with him. In short, despite Klopp constantly claiming he’s capable of playing there, I don’t think Henderson’s position is the 6. I think he has a skill-set that would be better suited for one of the 8 roles in midfield. Whereas previously, under Brendan Rodgers, his job in midfield was to press (a bit like Lallana is expected to now), he is now expected to sit deep and protect his back 4, which doesn’t come naturally. But while his strengths are perhaps better suit in a more advanced midfield role, is he suffering from the fact that we have better players currently occupying those roles? Well let’s go through the squad. Coutinho? Yes he’s better than Henderson. Lallana? He’s also better. Emre Can? Yes, I would say he’s better (but more about Emre shortly). James Milner, yes Henderson is better than Milner, finally Wijnaldum, who I also think Henderson is better than. But all in all, it’s possible Henderson wouldn’t get a game if he wanted to insist playing in one of the number 8 roles. And the problem comes in the fact that he’s captain. Can your captain really be a squad player and nothing more? Not really. So he has to play the 6, although I feel Emre Can, given a few games in that role, would really own it and become a much better option there. We’ve seen evidence previously that that’s where he’s best off, but no in the coaching staff seem to have seen it. So there’ll be a fair few of you at the moment saying ‘well the solution is very simple, we take the captaincy off Henderson!’ but it’s not that simple. Contrary to popular Twitter belief, one of the stronger aspects to Henderson’s game is his leadership skills. In the Champions League game at home to Maribor, I sat on Row 5 of the Kenny Dalglish Stand. Very close to the pitch. Believe me, you could hear all the talking he was doing. Every time Liverpool had the ball, he was guiding and prompting, he’s exceptional at helping his teammates on the field. I’m not tactically aware enough to tell you how Jurgen Klopp fixes this problem. Maybe he should revisit the 4-4-2 style formation we put out against West Ham, and see if that provides Hendo with a bit more protection himself, which will then contain him to where he needs to be to excel in the number 6 role. For now though, he’ll continue to play and get criticized, it’s just what Twitter does these days…   By Ben Kelly – @benkelly_10
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