Rodgers Pleased With "Brilliant" Henderson and Allen

Sheer effort and determination meant that soon they would master the fist bump - Paul Gilham

Brendan Rodgers couldn't be happier with how his two young midfielders, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson, are shaping up. In them, he can see the embodiment of the values he has preached since his arrival.

Liverpool's midfield has exercised most of us, of late. The key issue has been the personnel, given that we know a Brendan Rodgers team will have either one holding and two more advanced or two holding with one linking to the attack. With Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva as nailed-on starters when fit, that area of Liverpool's team has lacked pace, mobility and tenacity.

The evidence here is quite overwhelming to the naked eye. How many times have comparatively ordinary players waltzed through the gaps left at the heart of our team and straight onto a dangerously withdrawn and deep defensive line? How many times has Gerrard seemed more of an auxiliary centre-half cum quarterback, rather than the rampaging attacker of old? And how often have you seen Lucas hopelessly trailing an opponent who's left him for dead? This is not to gripe about either man, who would still make this scribbler's starting team every time.

Over the last two games we've seen two new partnerships emerge. First we saw Gerrard combine with a resurgent Joe Allen with very encouraging results, as Lucas was surprisingly rested. Then, in the wake of the captain's enforced absence, we saw the partnership of the Brazilian and Allen in combination with that ever-present, Jordan Henderson. The Sunderland native has been a consistently solid performer for Brendan Rodgers this campaign and his flexibility makes him invaluable.

On Sunday, without the large shadow cast by England's captain, Henderson blossomed. He has been a leader and captain at all levels up to senior and his confidence in possession, when in his preferred central role, is remarkable. Allied to his spectacular motility and persistent harrying of the opposition, we saw an impressive eye for a pass, a positional maturity and a threat in front of goal.

Rodgers is duly impressed by Henderson's form and attitude and was quick to credit his predecessor with the vision to spot the young man's potential.

"It's a great credit to Kenny [Dalglish]," says the Liverpool boss. "Everyone talked about Jordan Henderson coming in and the money that was spent on him. When you come into Liverpool, it takes you a year just to adapt. He has been absolutely outstanding in my time here, a great boy as well and wants to learn. You saw his performance. You looked at Jordan - a few times he was really organising and encouraging, and getting into one or two of his teammates as well. That's the leadership that you want."

Allen, too, received his manager's praise for the remarkable rehabilitation of his form in red. The Welshman looked strong in possession, always willing to receive the ball, constantly on the front foot and an effective harrier of the opposition when Liverpool did not have the ball. He and Henderson led the way in terms of Liverpool's pressing game, closing Spurs players down with inspirational ferocity and doggedness.

"I thought both Jordan and Joe Allen were brilliant, in how they pressed the ball," Rodgers enthused. "Joe is an outstanding player and as time goes on at Liverpool, he will really show that. He's a big talent; because he doesn't get the goals, he's more a technician and dynamic. He'll get maybe six or seven goals a season. But his influence on the team to retain the ball is so important. He and Jordan were excellent."

With Cities Cardiff and Manchester, followed by Chelsea forming the Reds' next three opponents, this new midfield alchemy will truly be tested. Liverpool fans will look forward to it with excitement rather than trepidation. That, in itself, is a sign of progress.

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