Jordan Henderson pass completion may have dropped from the high eighties to the low eighties (he crosses the ball more), but Liverpool's captain-elect continues to do what he did last season. His shots per game, aerials won, tackles, interceptions, fouls, clearances, blocks, key passes, dribbles, and average passes remain remarkably consistent over the past two league campaigns. When Liverpool fans watch Henderson play, they see a player who does what is expected but with more confidence and conviction. For this writer who thought the player would eventually become a trusted and high-level squad player, such development has been remarkable.
Henderson has outstripped last season's attacking numbers in the league in considerably fewer minutes so far. His statistics this season read as follows: 30 starts (1 sub) for a total of 2716 minutes that produced 6 goals and 8 assists. A goal or assist every 194 minutes. Last season, Henderson made 35 starts amounting to 3129 minutes and scored 4 goals along with registering 7 assists. A goal or assist every 284.45 minutes. That's heartening to see because he give so much more to the team than just goals or assists. It is commonly understood that Henderson works hard, harries well, covers a lot of ground, and is a reliable midfield partner, but his greater threat in attack could propel him to the elite level of Premier League midfielders.
You'd expect players' goals/assists per minute ratios to go down, as they have done in the case of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, in a season where Liverpool have had less of an attacking threat largely without the league's two top scorers from last season, but Henderson has bucked that trend while still doing Henderson things. Is this a sign of the growing influence of the captain's armband, a player maturing in his mid-twenties, or a an individual thriving without the presence of Gerrard in midfield? Perhaps it isn't wise to focus on one sole reason for the midfielder's growing threat in the final third as opposed to considering a number of reasons behind a positive trend.
Despite Henderson's progress so far this season, more can be made in the remaining weeks of the campaign and beyond. His assist for the opening goal against Newcastle is becoming a regular Henderson weapon, crossing the ball to a player out wide or centrally in a pocket of space, and is evidence of a player with more vision than he is credited for. However, the verticality he offers from midfield means that his finishing must improve along with his composure in the final third as he generally gets into promising attacking positions. He'll enter next season as a 25-year-old with over 300 senior appearances for club and country so should be well-placed to make further gains in this vital area. In truth, maintaining this season's Premier League goal and assist ratio isn't a bad way to continue over the next few years, but this is a player who looks like he could do even more with the right support.
A player who rarely gets injured and can be counted on to be part of a system as he can play a lot of matches over a short period of time valuable, especially if he's one of the club's best players. That's why Luis Suárez was so valuable. 29 starts (2 sub appearances), 33 starts, and 33 starts was his appearance record in the league in his three full seasons at the club along with many goals, assists, and sublime moments. Liverpool have a midfielder who doesn't engage in petty battles on the field, is a consummate professional, and can virtually guarantee his presence for the majority of the season. He's scored only one goal across 16 domestic and continental cup appearances but has created five goals. He's never scored an FA Cup goal in his career and could be more of a danger in cup competitions.
Frank Lampard reached double figures for Chelsea in ten successive Premier League seasons from the age of 25. Maybe it's pertinent to sign up a player not only because he's Liverpool's midfield engine and future club captain, but in the knowledge that Jordan Henderson's notable durability and growing efficiency in midfield is extremely valuable. When a club operates in a league where the only central midfielder creating more goals than Henderson is Chelsea's Cesc Fàbregas, retaining such a player's services is the only option moving forward.
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