Three Liverpool players have been success stories in adapting to new positions on the pitch. James Milner at left back, Jordan Henderson as a number 6 (the deepest lying player in a midfield three), and Adam Lallana in an attacking central midfield role with plenty of pressing duties exceeded expectations.
Henderson moving deeper might have solved the problem of procuring a top class defensive midfielder. The Liverpool captain ranks first for passes per game and second for tackles per game, statistics that illustrate Henderson’s ability to help Liverpool retain and regain possession of the ball. The 26-year-old is in his sixth season at the club and is proving to be a crucial part of the midfield whenever Liverpool are doing well in the league.
In his more natural box to box midfield role, Henderson provided the legs for Steven Gerrard as well as a selflessness in his duties as Liverpool made a thrilling title challenge in 2013/14. His absence for the final three games of that season after being sent off against Manchester City harmed Liverpool’s chances. Liverpool have missed his steady influence in the three games played so far in 2017, but Jürgen Klopp does not need to be reminded of his captain’s importance.
“He adapted unbelievably good to the position, so for us he is very important. Maybe we relied too much on him, Klopp said on Henderson’s midfield repositioning and importance to the team.
“I don’t read what you write, so if there is not enough credit for him then do it! He can’t have any more credit in my eyes. I love his attitude – it is outstanding.”
What is of greater concern than the praise Henderson receives, however, is his presence against Manchester United on Sunday. Emre Can—a talented player who is out of form—lacks Henderson’s discipline in positioning and consistency in possession, and besides that, Liverpool need the captain back. Will he recover in time for Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford?
“If he is available for the weekend it is only because of his attitude. I don’t think a lot of players would be available for this,” Klopp added. “There will be still pain, 100 per cent, but if anyone can cope with this it is him — and maybe Nathaniel Clyne. For the rest it might be difficult.
“From my side, there is no doubt about him, but if there should be more credit you can change that better than I can.”