In 2015, Jordan Henderson was confirmed as Liverpool’s new captain. Taking the captaincy from Steven Gerrard was always going to be tough for a young player, but after heavy criticism from fans, could the club now be regretting that decision? After all, it would have been much easier to hand the armband temporarily to a veteran.
Given the midfielder had just turned 25, it seems like Brendan Rodgers felt that Henderson was going to be captain for many years to come.
There was a much safer option available: Kolo Toure. The defender’s age meant that it was clear that he wasn’t going to be at Anfield for much longer, which would have provided some time before deciding who would replace one of Liverpool’s best ever captains. So was Henderson ready?
Can't understand why Joe Allen was sold and Jordan Henderson is still Liverpool captain. Welsh Xavi was much better
— Илья Котельников (@ilyushakot) September 20, 2017
To be fair to Henderson, despite an initial shaky start at Anfield, the former Sunderland midfielder did start to win fans over; tireless work rate, good contribution to attacks, and even the occasional great strike.
Not many fans were complaining when he was appointed the captain, but now, at a time when the club looks starved of leaders, Reds fans are quick to complain on social media.
Liverpool’s captain hasn’t been helped by injuries, missing plenty of time due to trouble in his heel. Naturally, this will affect sharpness – but also confidence. Playing in the holding midfield role, Henderson’s performances have been inconsistent.
RT:LFCFansCorner: Henderson stats, via Sky Sports. pic.twitter.com/9iU8J04IyR
— Andy Sugden (@AndySugs) September 8, 2017
It’s clear that the Liverpool man can do a job for the team, but the consistency just isn’t quite there yet. Given that the tide turns so quickly in football, it’s important that such impressive stats are replicated each week.
The Reds’ defence is still the same – shambolic. This is an area which Henderson should be looking to fix, even if it means barking orders in regards to positioning and which players to pick up. The lack of leadership is a cause for concern – which is why Liverpool could now be regretting their decision.
— Liverpool Gifs (@lfcgifz) September 19, 2017
The positioning in the goal above is particularly infuriating for Liverpool fans. Where is the leadership? Three Leicester players are occupied by Liverpool defenders while another two Foxes are stood in front of Henderson which leads to an easy chance for Okazaki. Why isn’t the captain closer to the danger there? But not just that, the entire midfield is nowhere to be seen – they effectively leave the back four against five Leicester attackers.
Such goals are all too often against Liverpool – and it seems like it’s a matter of organisation and leadership, rather than footballing ability. For example, if Jamie Carragher was the current captain, how would he react to an entire midfield three in front of the ball?
The Liverpool legend may not have been as good technically as some players, but Carragher would never allow so many easy goals to take place. Awareness, leadership and command – aspects which seem to be missing from the Reds current captain.
I miss your shouting and screaming during the 90 min @Carra23 . Even though it took me 6 months to understand a word 😂
— John Arne Riise (@JARiiseOfficial) September 21, 2017
At a point where Henderson has now been the leader for two years, removing captaincy would only lower morale. Liverpool have created the situation – it’s harder to take away the armband than it is to award.
The blueprint for a successful captain is clear – if not a huge contributor in goals or assists, it’s important that they’re highly influential in the organisation and structure of a team. It’s tough to argue that Liverpool’s current captain satisfies either of those categories.
Whether Jurgen Klopp tutors his captain quickly to become much more vocal on the field or plans to bring in a leader in January, it’s clear that something needs to be done to solve Liverpool’s defensive crisis. Henderson would probably play better without the expectation with the armband anyway.