Connect with us


Klopp must stop defending Henderson – the captain could bring the ship down with him

On the big occasion, presidents, generals and football managers aren’t all that dissimilar – they turn to their most trusted lieutenants in their hour of need.

While their relationship is not as cordial as it once was, in better times, Sir Alex Ferguson would, without thinking twice, send Roy Keane into battle safe in the knowledge that his skipper more often than not would inspire his charges to victory. The same goes for Patrick Vieira for Arsene Wenger, John McGovern for Brian Clough, you get the picture.

Aside from his strange omission from the side that faced Real Madrid in 2015, Steven Gerrard was Liverpool’s omnipresent leader, the first name on the team-sheet and inspiration to all.

Jordan Henderson, the current Reds skipper, doesn’t embolden in the same manner as his predecessor, and his absence in midweek may be a glimpse of things to come at Anfield. Perhaps Liverpool have outgrown their captain, and to win the battle against mediocrity, Klopp may have to put his loyalties to one side for the greater good.


Klopp right to be questioned

“Even a captain cannot play all the time,” Klopp said of his decision to leave Henderson on the bench against Spartak Moscow. “He’s in a good moment, in good shape, but I thought for this game it made sense. I only spoke about it because I thought people will find out, fantastic game, Jordan didn’t play, and make a s*** story about it. Sorry.”

Except, Jurgen, leaving your captain out of a match where the winner would be through to the riches of the Champions League knockout stages, and the loser potentially facing the prospect of the significantly less prestigious Europa League last 32, is not, in any way, normal. We all know who would have been leading out Ferguson’s United out in the same circumstances.

The problem is not that Henderson is particularly bad – he is yet to make an error that has led to a goal this season – but he doesn’t really do anything particularly well.

Henderson stats far from impressive

He has one assist to his name to date, which when you consider the incredible movement of Liverpool’s front three ahead of him, isn’t overly impressive. Cesar Azpilicueta has five.

Passing accuracy is usually his forte, but with a 81.92 per cent success rate in the Premier League this season, Henderson’s accuracy has deserted him. More than five per cent of Georgina Wijnaldum’s passes reach their targets. Four dribbles completed isn’t bad you’d think for a defensive midfielder? Nemanja Matic has completed 20.

His defensive capabilities have to be called into question, too. A 60 per cent tackle success rate doesn’t flatter the England international. In comparison, N’Golo Kante has been successful from 73.17 per cent of the challenges he has gone in for, while Henderson’s 12 interceptions is dwarfed by Idrissa Gueye’s 28, completed in a team supposedly in disarray.

“Liverpool’s front three, four, five, six, whatever you want to call it, are incredibly mobile,” former England defender Danny Mills told Sky Sports’ The Debate Show this week. “They’re very fluid with their movement. And I just think Can offers a little more going forward than Jordan Henderson does.”


Time for Klopp to make tough call

If Henderson can’t pick a pass when he has Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah rampaging every which way ahead of him, then there really may be little hope.

The dilemma that Klopp has on his hands is that Henderson’s inclusion against Everton in Sunday’sMerseyside derby – which he has already confirmed is likely to happen – takes up a first-team spot that could be perfect for Coutinho. In the centre, as that attacking midfield pivot, Coutinho has the myriad of creative ability to pick out the runs of Liverpool’s uber-mobile forwardline, and still get among the goals, as he did so readily in midweek.

Klopp is nobody’s fool, but if he has one flaw, it is that he is often overly loyal to certain players. Yes, Henderson has given his all for his manager, but he doesn’t owe his captain anything. If he isn’t producing the goods, he cannot be carried along for the ride.

Having a player at the heart of such an exhilarating unit who doesn’t prove to be an asset will be detrimental to any progress. For now, at least, Klopp has to take the difficult decision and look elsewhere for leadership, otherwise captain Henderson may just take the ship down with him.

Not so confident about your own decisions? Check out these trusty Syndicate selections for this weekend here!

Recent Posts