Liverpool recorded a 7-0 win over Spartak Moscow on Wednesday night to win their Champions League group. Going forward the fab four of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and in particularly Philippe Coutinho were once again on fire.
However, an observation by many Liverpool fans about the game was that the Reds are a better team without captain and central midfielder Jordan Henderson, who spent the night on the Liverpool bench.
It is a reasonable conclusion, as the Merseysiders also hammered Maribor 7-0 without the England midfielder. Some will claim that both results may have been the same with Henderson in the team, but we will never know.
Some will just see Henderson’s omission as Jurgen Klopp resting his captain ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby. However, it may be a sign of things to come for the former Sunderland star.
What are Henderson’s strengths?
Having watched Jordan Henderson play for Sunderland and Liverpool, I am still not sure of the midfielder’s main strengths. He is a decent passer and keeps the ball well. However, neither of those qualities are exceptional.
When Henderson joined Liverpool, I thought he would be the sort of defensive midfielder that drove the team forward. He is the captain and he is expected to be Klopp’s eyes and ears on the pitch.
When people talk about Henderson’s game, I hear his supporters saying stuff like ‘he gets around the pitch well’ or ‘he has a good engine’. Neither of those have helped Liverpool to achieve much success in recent years.
One fan made a good point when he said could you imagine the Reds dropping Steven Gerrard in his prime for such a game? The answer is they would not have. Although they are completely different players, I can see the meaning of the statement.
Competition for places
Some critics have laid the blame for Liverpool’s poor defensive performances at the door of the team’s captain. He is in the team to shield the defence. When Liverpool concedes goals, Henderson has to take some of the blame as defensive midfielder and captain.
However, if Henderson cannot do the job it seems he will soon have competition for his place in the team. For me, Germany midfielder Emre Can is a better all-around player than the Reds captain.
Can’s situation is complicated by the fact that his contract expires in the summer. Negotiations are reportedly taking place between the two parties, but he can sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club next month.
Henderson may well be lucky that Can’s Reds future is in doubt, as he the Germany international would offer a perfect replacement for the England midfielder.
The Liverpool captain may not be so lucky next summer when the Reds sign highly-rated Senegalese star Naby Keita, though. Some observers are already predicting that Keita’s arrival could spell the end of Henderson as a first team starter at Liverpool.
Liverpool will be a threat to any team in the knockout stages
Although there may be doubts about the merits of Henderson’s starting spot at Liverpool, there are no doubts about Liverpool’s potential to beat any team in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Liverpool are odds of 16/1 to win the competition this season . Those relatively long odds are likely due to the team’s defensive vulnerabilities. Klopp’s side are brilliant going forward and cause any teams defence problems in competition.
However, the Reds seem unlikely to win the trophy, unless Klopp can find a way to sure up his defence. At times, the Merseysiders look like they are turning the corner defensively, and then suddenly they will produce a defensive horror show, like against Sevilla in this competition.
Jordan Henderson is part of the team’s defensive problems. Klopp has stated the team’s captain will start Sunday’s derby against Everton. However, it seems he is now in a battle to stay in the Liverpool team.
Should Jordan Henderson be in the Liverpool team?