With Jordan Henderson being absent from the game at the weekend, you can’t help but think that the captain’s armband doesn’t guarantee a place in the starting eleven.
Going back to when Gerard Houllier was manager at Liverpool, he said ‘the only way the captain should be leaving the game early against Manchester United is on a stretcher’. The fact that Jordan Henderson didn’t make the starting eleven proves that times have changed. Henderson has recently been recovering from a hamstring injury and also suffered a dead leg after the mid-week game against Porto so you could argue Klopp was resting him but was there any need to? This is Liverpool’s biggest games of the season, apart from Everton, and you would want your captain to be out on the field taking control of the game, dominating possession and giving the attackers something to feed on. Obviously he doesn’t compare to when you had a leader like Steven Gerrard or Sami Hyypia in your squad but having taken over the armband for three seasons now, you would think his place would be guaranteed.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has stressed that he doesn’t see the captain’s armband as a guarantee selection and decided to go for Emre Can, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as his midfield three on Saturday. There has been a lot of speculation recently surrounding Emre Can about whether or not he will be leaving the club in the summer. At the minute I think Can is our number one midfielder, Klopp seems to like him and the way he plays and over recent games he has put in some good performances and showed everyone the type of player he can be, however I think he does lack consistency. He has recently said that he is 100% focused on Liverpool and the remainder of the Premier League season and has also told his agent to hold off on speaking to other clubs until the season is over but for me, if a player was refusing to sign a new contract and was even thinking about potentially moving on from the club, I wouldn’t be starting him every week.
We are not short on midfielders even with the departure of Phillipe Coutinho and with Naby Keita joining in the summer from Leipzig and us being linked with numerous other potential midfield partners for the Guinean, Klopp has a lot of options to choose from. Maybe Emre Can is thinking that he doesn’t want to have to fight for his place next season so wants a move but if he is planning on signing for a club like Juventus or Manchester City then he will be facing even bigger competition there.
I think Oxlade-Chamberlain is a great talent and on his day can cause real problems for the opposition. But again he lacks consistency and goes through spells of three or four games where he dominants and then has one or two bad games that shatter his confidence and pulls him out of the starting eleven. He is only 24 and can still improve and that was one of the reasons why he left Arsenal was so he could improve as a player. It is still his first season at the club so hopefully when it comes to next season he will find his feet but will be facing a lot of competition.
I would like Adam Lallana to be given more minutes, he was out for a long time due to injury but has recently come back into the squad and played in his first 90 minutes of the season against Porto last week. He’s never been able to fully cement his place in the starting XI since joining from Southampton in 2014 and is coming up to 30 years-of-age so will need to start putting in performances to showcase his talents but he can only do then when he is selected. He came on at the weekend against United and showed a bit of desire to go forward and create chances to get the equaliser but it wasn’t meant to be. We’ve also forgot about Gini Wijanldum who appeared for the first time at the weekend after missing the last couple of games due to injury and illness but the same applies to him, he can’t showcase his talents unless he is given regular game time but because he has fell down the pecking order, it doesn’t look like he will be returning to the starting XI anytime soon.
The same goes for James Milner, he featured heavily for the Reds last season but from the left-back position. I mentioned in an article last week that I wanted to see Milner play on Saturday against United because of his experience and the sheer fact that he just runs everywhere on the pitch but with him recently turning 32, it looks asif Klopp will be favouring the younger players.
Our midfield three had a large amount of the possession on Saturday but lacked that creative flare and that is the big thing we are missing since Coutinho departure, someone who can create a chance out of nothing. Yes, we have Salah, Mane and Firmino but it showed on Saturday that if they don’t play up to their usual standards and defenders are able to stop them playing then it is down to other member of the team to be able to come up with that special something to get us going in the game.
There is no denying our squads talent and one bad game at Old Trafford doesn’t really affect how our season will shape out with us into the Quarter-finals of the Champions League and on course to finish in the top four, however I would like us to be more consistent, especially in midfield, and be able to break down defensive teams without having to rely on our front three.
The question is, is it time for the armband to be passed on so that Liverpool can have a captain who is constantly in the team. At the minute the only candidate I can think of who has the leadership skills and talent to take over the armband is Virgil Van Dijk and I think some fans would agree with me that he would be a great candidate but I also think coming into a new club and being handed the armband before you have had your first full season can be nerve wrecking and would add a lot of pressure on the player. There is no denying Jordan Henderson’s capabilities and has proven in games that he can be a fearless leader when the time has come but with him suffering from a lot of injuries and him constantly being in and out of the team and not being able to hold down a place in the starting XI, is it time to move on?
Article by Lauren Black
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