Jordan Henderson as a footballer has always managed to elicit responses from typically sound football minds that can only be described as this: . Whether it be successful managers talking about the Captain’s running form, or analytics bros with axes to grind taking weird potshots, Hendo has always managed to raise the hackles of people to a strange degree.
I genuinely don’t understand it. Like, sure, Henderson’s playing style has generally been tidy to the point of being looking like he’s allergic to the ball with the way he just keeps it moving. And he’s also very intense. And he has always been the LFC player I’d bet the most money on being a serial killer for some reason. But, honestly, Hendo’s done everything for this squad that a captain and organizer in the middle of the pitch is supposed to do.
Today, Opta, working with the official site, released a niche set of stats that point to the importance of Henderson’s work in Liverpool’s success. They start by pointing out that Liverpool’s win percentage when Henderson is involved is 60.1%, whereas the team’s success without him is set at 43.9%. There’s also the fact that among the Premier League players that win the ball back in the opponents final third, Henderson is in joint-second place with 22 recoveries.
Leadership and grit, those are all things that are keyed into the way we talk about Jordan Henderson. And, look, no one is looking at these statistics and trying to make a case that he’s the best midfielder in Europe - these stats aren’t meant for that. But I think even those potshots say something about Henderson’s rising visibility over the last few seasons. It’s clear that people recognize his presence on the pitch enough to make such strange comments and assessments of his game.
And maybe that’s it: Henderson is the type of player whose ability to recycle the ball, harry the opposing side, and drive a team to victory are what you want in a squad member and hate in an opponent. Maybe the source of people’s fume is that they wish their squad had a Hendo to turn to when things get tough.
Maybe, just maybe, they already know how valuable a player like Jordan Henderson is without having to look at the stats.