The resurrection of Jordan Henderson

Blog by: Beyond The Kop

When Jordan Henderson was named captain for Liverpool’s pre-season game against Valarenga, it capped a remarkable turnaround for the young man from Sunderland.

If you go back 12 months, then it looked very likely that the 23 year old from Sunderland would be heading out of Anfield as part of a cash plus player deal for Clint Dempsey. He was to be added to the list of expensive British flops that arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2011.

However, the move never happened for whatever reason and although it would have been made clear to Jordan that he was not part of Brendan Rodgers plans, the young man stayed, trained well and thanks to a run in the side during the Europa Cup, he finished the season as a firm fans favourite and arguably one of the first names down on the team sheet

There is a lot to like about Jordan Henderson; he works hard on his game, never moans in public or appears half-arsed when asked to fill in a position that does not suit him. He was the first to admit that his debut season at Anfield fell well below the required levels even after it had all started so well, with a goal against Bolton at Anfield during one of his first games for Liverpool.

Bought for the ridiculous price of £16 million pounds, he was under pressure before he played his first minute for the club. For a fee like that, some fans expected him to score the goals of Steven Gerrard, tackle like Javier Mascherano and pass like Xabi Alonso. That was never going to be the case though and another problem he had was that Kenny Dalglish played Jordan as a wide right midfielder for most of his time in charge.

Now, Jordan is capable of doing a job out there and he has the physical attributes to be up and down the flank all game. But that is not his best position and he would have been best served being used in his favourite and best position in the centre of midfield or left on the bench until he could get into the team. Even back then, he was a better option in central midfield than Charlie Adam.

He is what you would class as a box to box midfielder whose ability when breaking into the penalty area is somewhat reminiscent of a young Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard. His goals for Sunderland against Wigan and goal against West Ham show that once he makes the run and gets found, then he is very cool and calm in the penalty area. Further to those goals is the excellent goal he scored away at Aston Villa for Liverpool during the 2012/13 season – a great third man run from midfield and a wonderfully chipped finish.

So Jordan is cool when in front of the goal but he has other attributes – he covers the ground very well which helps with Liverpool playing a pressing game, his short passing is slick and he is not afraid to put himself about. He needs to learn and improve his in-game intelligence, but he is a young player and even with a large price tag around his neck, it’s wrong to expect the finished article.

He started the 2012/13 season well down the pecking order for a starting role in his preferred position of central midfield with Steven Gerrard, the newly acquired Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin, Lucas Leiva and even Jonjo Shelvey well ahead of him. Jordan was only called upon when the Europa League games started coming thick and fast.

His performances during those games and in training gave Brendan Rodgers some food for thought. Along with the injury to Lucas Leiva and the form of Nuri Sahin, Rodgers was left with no choice but to start using Jordan from the start in league games and although his hand may have been slightly forced, Rodgers deserves credit for working with Jordan during training and not being afraid to be proven wrong by the player and continuing to use him even when Lucas Leiva returned from injury.

If there was a turning point for Jordan Henderson, you could say it was the wonderful volley followed by his celebration against Norwich City at Anfield. It was a finish out of the very top drawer and the way he let out all his frustration during his celebration was a clear sign to me that he was sticking 2 fingers up to the critics and was determined to prove his worth to the Anfield faithful and the fans everywhere.

From that point on, he looked like a different player – there was the goal away to Arsenal where he was arguably Liverpool’s best player. There was another exceptional performance away at Manchester City when he was asked to play in the LF position just behind the main striker. He had become Brendan Rodgers’ go to man when he needed more energy in a certain area of the field.

Those performances continued until the end of the season and a lot of Liverpool fans were calling Jordan the most improved player of Brendan Rodgers’ reign.

During the weeks of pre-season and leading up to the first game of the season at home against Stoke, there was plenty of debate on forums and Twitter as to what would be the starting XI. Many, including myself, picked Joe Allen in as the extra midfielder alongside Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva but to many it was not a surprise that Jordan was picked ahead of him.

Playing in an almost wide right position when Liverpool were defending, Jordan covered plenty of ground and hassled the Stoke midfield and back 4, he also got himself into the penalty area on two occasions and if not for the brilliance of Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic he could have had 2 goals.

In an opening day performance of much promise, Jordan showed up very well and although I personally would expect to see Joe Allen play more regularly, it is clear that Jordan now has the manager’s full confidence. Could we see a midfield 3 of Allen, Henderson and Gerrard sometime soon? It certainly is a change from 12 months ago when it appeared that Jordan would be packing his bag and heading south.

The resurrection of Jordan Henderson is complete.

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