You’ll struggle to find a more common scapegoat than Jordan Henderson.
By virtue of being English and the successor to Steven Gerrard’s captaincy at Liverpool, intense scrutiny of his performances was always going to be an inevitability.
But this season he’s been a quiet revelation.
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Henderson’s 2015/16 campaign – Jurgen Klopp’s first at Anfield after replacing Brendan Rodgers – was blighted by injuries which understandably led to a dip in form.
This term has been a different story altogether.
The England midfielder has taken to Klopp’s new, deeper role for him like a duck to water, shielding the back four yet regularly sparking Liverpool’s vibrant attacking moves.
Thanks to Squawka’s stats centre, we’re able to see just how good Henderson has been compared to some of his Premier League rivals:
Henderson leads the way in almost every key category and has completed the most passes in the Premier League this season, while only Idrissa Gueye has completed more tackles.
He’s been criticised throughout his career for a tendency to pass sideways or backwards, but this season a considerable 73% of his passes have gone forward.
The Reds’ captain is usually associated with his relentless running and dynamism, but his more withdrawn role has required a new-found discipline.
He’s embraced the responsibility too, allowing the likes of Adam Lallana and Emre Can greater license to roam forward which has propelled Liverpool to the top of the league’s scoring charts.
Four assists and that quite sumptuous winning goal at league leaders Chelsea back in October is a decent return too for someone who rarely gets forward now.
It’s been quite the turnaround; going from potential makeweight in a deal to bring Clint Dempsey to Liverpool in 2012 to one of the standout central midfielders – along with N’Golo Kante – in the top flight this season.
The former Sunderland man is an assured yet vocal presence in a developing Liverpool side and, more importantly, it seems he’s stopped trying to be Steven Gerrard and refocused on being himself.
Klopp may still look for another midfielder in January, with both Mahmoud Dahoud and Leandro Pardes long-term targets, but the way Henderson has adapted to his new role may end up sparing the German a sizeable splurge in the transfer market.
Yes he’s unfashionable but, ironically, this season Henderson is in vogue.
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