There's been plenty of times this season that I've found myself reflecting on Brendan Rodgers' first few press conferences after being appointed Liverpool manager. Much was made of the passing game, with Joe Allen's arrival from Swansea set to usher in a new era of dominance on the ball. Another feature of Rodgers' approach--optimistically referred to as death by football by both manager and supporters--was the pressing without the ball, trying to win the ball back as quickly as possible.
That wasn't so much a feature in Rodgers' first season, with injuries and lack of personnel conspiring to limit Liverpool's ability to play with any sort of consistent approach. This season has been a different story, however, and a large part of that is down to the consistent inclusion of Jordan Henderson, whose tireless running and energy leads the way for Liverpool without the ball.
Against Arsenal, Henderson and Philippe Coutinho were terrific, with both directly contributing to Liverpool goals with their ability to close down quickly and win possession. For Henderson it was the ability to overwhelm Mesut Ozil and break into the attacking third, where he dished off to Luis Suarez, who slid a cross along the deck for Raheem Sterling to tap in.
Were it just the lone incident it would still be impressive enough, but both Henderson and Coutinho could be seen pressing with urgency for most of the ninety minutes. The pressing kept coming even after the goals stopped, and according to Henderson, it was all part of the plan:
"There was a lot of energy, we hunted the ball back and there was a great appetite for the game. We started really well in the game. We set off on a really good footing with the goals and we just kept wanting more and more. We pressed really well and I think everyone is delighted with that performance. A big part of our game is the intensity and it's about getting the ball back quickly when we lose it. I felt as though we did that well today, especially in the first half. We won it back and a couple of our goals came from that. So that's pleasing."
With Lucas injured and Joe Allen still playing his way back into the side from injury, it's encouraging to see that they're still able to dominate the opposition in a manner similar to what we witnessed at White Hart Lane back in mid-December. Henderson's the only holdover from a performance that was as dominant as we've seen, but twice in the past two weeks we watched as a midfield three of Henderson, Coutinho, and Steven Gerrard took over a match.
Tactics will change depending on the opposition, and as we saw in the disappointing draw at West Brom last weekend, there's going to be some wrinkles to iron out. Well into Brendan Rodgers' second season at the helm, we're finally starting to see his words turn into action, and Jordan Henderson's leading the way.
**Updated with a video of Liverpool's pressing on the day from RaytedAre**