Ahead of the Anfield derby on Monday, Jürgen Klopp spent some time in his pre-match press conference discussing the importance of his captain, Jordan Henderson, over his tenure, and on recent criticisms.
Henderson has played a whopping 91 games for club and country since the start of the 2021/22 season, and Klopp believes this immense effort has had a mental and physical impact on Henderson and on others who have put in similar numbers:
People don’t want to hear this kind of thing, that’s what it sounds like. There must be reasons for a few things what we did this season and we don’t turn to bad people overnight. It’s not that we lost a football brain, we don’t know the game anymore and stuff like this. What could be the reason on top of that, apart from losing confidence, never having momentum and stuff like this, yes there are some physical things as well. They are clear.
Other players from other clubs have similar problems and cannot play the season they played last year. For us, it is now not too important because the last season is long ago, we try to manage things – like workload – as much as we can. Because we couldn’t do it and now we could do it a bit more; but in the past we couldn’t because everyone who was available, especially up front, had to play. We had changes up front and when you have changes up front you want to have a more settled midfield, that’s clear and when it’s happening you don’t change too much and all these kind of things.
The workload management is not that easy, let me say it like this, but this week they all look incredibly fresh, that’s the truth as well. The training sessions so far were really good, were super-intense from how the boys did it and, so, 91 games but the 92nd could be a really good one.
The Liverpool boss pushes back against those who claim Henderson is unimportant to the Reds:
I don’t understand now why we talk about one player. I mean it: Hendo, I hope everybody knows how much I respect him and stuff like that. Hendo is not our problem – never was and never will be. When he is ready, good shape and the rest, he played probably 98 per cent of the games we had. Now he didn’t start for two or three games, he came on, all these kind of things.
He played all these games because he is a very, very, very important player for us. That’s the only reason, there is no other reason for it. When he is not playing then you miss that, that’s how it is. Yes, he’s very important.
Klopp also commented on the effect of not having Henderson available in the team:
The key thing is, like all the others. If you miss something from Hendo, but all the rest would be there, we wouldn’t miss it as much. Like all the others are, like Virgil van Dijk is [an inspirational figure]. When he is on his top level, we miss him like crazy from his top level. But not even Virgil played all the games sensationally well... I am overly happy that he’s coming back, so that’s why I think we don’t have to make a Jordan Henderson story in this situation. This is a team story – and, if you want, a manager story. Nothing else. Not individual players or individual members of staff or whatever. This story doesn’t work, definitely not. That’s all.