JORDAN Henderson is a player who often divides opinion amongst Liverpool FC fans, and as for non-Liverpool supporters…well, let’s just say they are entitled to their views.
I currently sit firmly in the ‘Pro-Henderson’ camp.
It is a frustrating and often lonely place, however as the weeks and games go by more and more people are converting.
When players such as Carroll, Downing and Henderson arrived at the club for astronomical fees, critics automatically gained a narrative to play out their negative headline grabbing stories. This misplaced frustration has without a doubt contributed towards underwhelming and undeniably poor performances at times.
Those mistakes are being learnt from; the purchase of Sturridge and Coutinho showing the club is making every effort to stamp out the mafia legacy, which blighted our payroll and ultimately led to Clint Dempsey heading to Spurs instead of his number one choice, LFC.
Jack Wilshere has emerged as a first choice Arsenal and now first choice England player. Those within the football world compare him with the likes of Xavi, Inesta and Gerrard and to some Liverpool fans this can be hard to swallow. But ask any Arsenal fan and they would probably say he is better than all three.
Wilshere is a year and half younger than Henderson, had been out injured for over a year, yet still manages to jump straight into the England squad without so much as a blink of an eye. Is the gulf in class between the two players this large?
My answer to this would be both yes and no.
In football, often the smallest of differences in play have the most significant outcomes. The game is played so fast and with so much method and preparation that players who seem light years ahead in terms of skill and creativity can leave others looking ordinary and at times out of their depth.
This is something intrinsic within a player and can be the difference between scoring or conceding, winning and losing. At times this attribute goes unnoticed by fans but knowing what to do, or what not to do at crucial points in a match is a subtle but important skill. It can also come down to an understanding within a team that has been developed over a number of years. Wilshere has had over a decade under Arsene Wenger and his coaches to develop a singular style of play, which has determined that most of his split second decisions are so natural to him that he just knows what the right move is at the right time.
The answer for Jordan? Stick with Liverpool (as he made clear he wanted to do in the summer) and listen to Rodgers and the LFC coaching staff. With training, he will make up for lost time and hopefully lose some of the bad habits he picked up at Sunderland.
2) First touch.
This may seem obvious but when you compare the first touch of both players this small detail is staggering. Jack Wilshere’s first touch and initial movement is what makes him the player he is and where the comparisons with Barcelona playmakers are wholly justified. Before he even has the ball he knows which direction he is going to take it and by hardly stopping he creates that extra yard (and time) to make a distributional decision or carry the ball and run at the defence.
The answer for Jordan? He doesn’t need to change everything about his game to work on this, or try to be a player he isn’t. But this is something that every club works on at training and perhaps something that comes with self-belief and maybe even a touch of arrogance. Xabi Alonso was never arrogant but it was clear he believed in his own ability and is a great example of a player whose game is defined by their first touch.
Jordan Henderson has an opportunity to thrive in the current Liverpool squad and his positive, hard working attitude will go a long way with the fans. He is also in a privileged position in playing alongside one of the greatest midfielders in the history of the sport, Steven Gerrard. If he can’t pick up a thing or two from him then he might as well pack his bags and call it a day.