Jordan Henderson hasn't had the easiest season, and for those who have followed his career closely at Anfield, it's probably been as difficult as his first at the club. Stepping up from Sunderland at 21 wasn't a simple process, but this season was supposed to be one where Henderson could step out on his own as captain in his fifth season on Merseyside. Often providing the legs and energy for an ageing Steven Gerrard, Henderson was believed to have been hampered by having an immobile partner. After a season of injuries and mixed form, however, Emre Can has emerged as Liverpool's most important midfielder.
From Jürgen Klopp's very first game at Anfield, he cajoled and instructed Can from the touchline with a hopeful crowd watching on. Henderson was unavailable for that game after breaking a bone in his foot in September but hasn't quite been at his best during the season. A knee injury in the draw with Borussia Dortmund was supposed to rule him out for the season, but Liverpool's captain returned for the final Premier League game of the season and was on the bench for the Europa League final. Although Henderson's immediate focus will be securing a place in England's Euro 2016 squad, the 25-year-old is looking further ahead.
"The team at Liverpool have progressed very well this season," the captain said. "But for me personally, it’s been the hardest season of my career so far. But you have to go through them at times. You’re going to have injuries. Before that, I was quite lucky in that I didn’t really have any bad ones, and this season they’ve all come at once. But hopefully I’ll be stronger for it. I’ve come through it, and hopefully I can stay injury-free and get back to my best. It’s been a difficult season, but hopefully – touch wood – I can concentrate on playing football now, stay injury-free and just get back to playing the way I know I can. I want to help the team do well in the tournament.
"I worked very hard with the physios and fitness staff with Liverpool, and managed to get back quite quickly really. But I am still managing it, I need to make sure I take it day by day, and hopefully in a few weeks I am in a good place. "It’s nice to be back. I felt good. It’s good to get some minutes under my belt to get that sharpness back. "Now I’m looking forward to the next couple of games. Hopefully I can get some good training under my belt as well, but it’s good to be back."
With Klopp favouring a double pivot in midfield, there is hope that Henderson can be free from injuries to function as the durable, dependable, and diligent midfielder that he's been in his time at the club. It took a while for him to win over many Liverpool fans, but it looks like there will be a fight to partner Emre Can next season. Liverpool need more composure from the player who will partner Can, and with links to midfielders who are known for their abilities and intelligence on the ball, Klopp might be looking for something different.
Henderson has, though, shown commendable resilience and professionalism at the club. Brendan Rodgers wanted to sell the former Sunderland midfielder not long after being confirmed as manager, but guess who stuck around and became indispensable in a midfield three. Can he function as effectively in a two when Emre Can has settled on a driving defensive midfield role? Next season will reveal how the midfield will take shape in Klopp's first full season at Liverpool, but it appears to be Emre Can plus one other. Liverpool's captain has to ensure that he's the other guy, especially in a less physically demanding season without the extra games that European football provides. A