What does Jordan Henderson actually do?
- The Liverpool midfielder, who transferred from Tyne and Wear during the summer to the tune of around £20million, has not been very ‘unique’ this season in terms of his playing style.
- The young Englishman has featured 13 times overall for his new club but has been usually deployed as legs – to chase after ball. So far this season, he has not been very impressive.
Run? It seems so.
During the summer, Sunderland went through a period of change that would seemingly try and shape their entire season and vie for the places inside the top half of the table that they so intently hunger for. Last season’s finish of a median in the Premier League table – 10th place – needed to be built upon and strengthened if the ambitions of a club that have seemingly found themselves within a stronger financial position than before and since their return to the top-flight in 2007. Asamoah Gyan, the Ghanaian international who featured at the World Cup in 2010 for the Black Stars, transferred from French club Stade Rennes for £13million, and that is justification enough to prove their abilities of combating a few of the bigger for some talented players.
But Jordan Henderson was not going to be part of that. He was in the plans of another club. Liverpool Football Club. And instead of being part of the winds of change that has insinuatingly devoured the hopes and dreams of the Mackem faithful, a club that he has been with since a young age, he would be part of the Dalglish revolution and the Scotsman’s voyage for European football once more – something that evaded the Reds ever since their trial in the UEFA Europa League. His transfer during the summer in being one of the most noticeable events for Dalglish’s intentions was the price tag and the whistling tune of what is rumoured to be almost £20million pounds. A high-pitched tune that could break the glasses of rooms and executive boxes around Anfield now, pop the ear drums of many Liverpool supporters. Because Henderson’s move from all the way up north to a little bit down west and borderline Wales has not been very captivating and nor has it been that impressive. 13 games in and he has not really signified himself as a player or developed a unique part of his game. Perhaps the best part of his game is his ability to run – and run, and run.
Jordan “Hendo” Henderson featured on the weekend in one of Liverpool’s most difficult games this season and a hope game that could see them breathing down the necks of Manchester United – whose slip-up the day before cost them the chance to go two points behind City. Hendo partnered Adam and Lucas Leiva in a three-man midfield to which was then combating the 4-2-3-1 shape of City. Lucas the destroyer, Adam the deep-lying playmaker and Henderson the err, um, chaser. You could not really define his game because it was so uneven that it was better he came on when the game was weary and legs were feeling it a little bit, a bit like when he came on for the Reds against Chelsea, setting up an assist for Glen Johnson to power home the winner at the Bridge and to sink the Blues into another defeat.
And the statistics do not sway in the favour of Hendo for the game against City, as he played the entire 90 minutes without much failure in running out of gas to chase the ball a little more. According to Who Scored, the 21-year-old did not make a single successful tackle, interception or block any of the seven shots taken by a generally dominated City side. Nor was there a clearance by him at any stage by some of the threats and chances created by Mancini’s eleven.
Attacking-wise he took one shot that did not hit the target whilst being dispossessed at one point and also being caught offside by the linesman’s flag during the second half. It was an excellent chance for him to pull through after a generally disappointing performance by Adam’s pass square to Dirk Kuyt alerted a sudden change in movement from Henderson to which he couldn’t react quickly enough to. The yellow and orange-chequered flag was raised by the man clad in black and the fans jeered the referee’s shriek of the whistle. Indirect free-kick given, possible chance for Liverpool to score squandered.
Perhaps he us a future box-to-box midfielder? Usually box-to-box players have passing success rates over 75% and he showed that with fortunately being the word I’d like to use in this sentence. A % above the standard and 45 passes completed proved that he has at least one quality in him that was prevalent. But with that statistic we can use the chalkboards to analyse where he made those passes and where his movement was actually laid.
The figure shows that, through the entire game he tries to attack the right-hand side and the final thirds of the pitch. 13% of his passes were in the far right corner of the pitch and up against the marauder in Gaël Clichy, whilst 19% in the quadrant before that. Overall 61% of his passes were down the right flank and 38% in the middle of the pitch, sometimes around his own penalty area. That was for the overall passing and not for the ones that were successful. When you break it up into smaller pieces, you can also see that 32 of his passes that connected were through open play. It now shows 57% of them were down the right flank and 93% of the successful passes out of all were directed down the right side of the Liverpool attack. This was meanwhile Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt interchanged to switch up their attacking options. So was this an instruction from King Kenny to help double-up out wide or is it his natural intention to? Box-to-box players make passes anywhere and everywhere and passing heatmaps do not fully justify their movement, and rather where they make them, so it only proves it to an extent.
So that’s one game covered and according to Who Scored, he was Liverpool’s worst player that game – a bit harsh? And besides, a website basing on statistics from around Europe and the world may well give the wrong messages when rating players after games. Could be mathematically or it could be based on opinions but vindicating Henderson should probably be done. But he was pretty awful.
In comparison to the entire Liverpool team as the season has progressed, however, Who Scored say that the young England international averages 2.32 tackles, interceptions, fouls and offsides won per game. It may sound good or it may sound decent enough, but that’s 0.7 tackles a game and 0.8 interceptions, too. This is not a point where he is going to get belated and become the scapegoat but overall it is a fairly poor showing. I will say, however, that he is learning the ropes still and will get there in the next three to five years when the likes of Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Daniel Sturridge and others will be “all grown up” for the 2016 European Championships in France, hopefully looking to go on and win the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after triumph in Paris, the Parc des Princes to be more detailed. Just a pipe dream.
He is only 21 and has a lot of time left before he can really be fully criticised for his performances. Leverage will indeed be needed for him to have space for breathing as that may be lacking now, suffocating from the constant advice given from the British media, pundits, fans and others alike to improve his game. The price tag at the start of the season was always going to cause a ruckus, £20million seems quite far-fetched but it is all about the waiting game now, nurturing the talent whilst it’s still quite raw until it develops into something quite prosperous. It can genuinely end well for all three parties (Henderson, Sunderland and Liverpool) if the first and latter are co-operative with one another and the median is laughing all the way to the bank, only to be with a distraught look on their face when they find themselves once again making calamitous, haphazard errors inside of the box when they could have won the game earlier on.
Now it’s up to you, Hendo.