Jordan Henderson shows why he may be Liverpool’s most important player of all

Jordan Henderson shows why he may be Liverpool’s most important player of all

Roberto Firmino’s winner at Wolves grabbed the headlines but Liverpool’s captain was, yet again, an immense figure

Sachin Nakrani at Molineux

Fri 24 Jan 2020 00.49 GMT
Last modified on Fri 24 Jan 2020 08.47 GMT

‘As the final whistle blew one man in red was not there, for he had walked to the far side of the pitch in order to acknowledge the 3,000-plus travelling supporters.’

As the final whistle blew on a cold and misty night in the Midlands, Liverpool’s players allowed themselves a moment to congregate in the centre of the pitch and celebrate yet another win. Backs were patted, hugs were exchanged and, not surprisingly, breaths were caught after what was the league leaders’ toughest assignment of the season so far. But one man in red was not there, for he had walked to the far side of the pitch to acknowledge the 3,000-plus travelling supporters who had made the trip here. In turn they saluted him, and rightly so. He was not only their captain but also the main reason this proved to be another joyous occasion for their side.

Jordan Henderson was outstanding here, scoring his side’s first goal, assisting their second and in general performing with a level of authority, commitment and skill that continues to mark him out as arguably Liverpool’s most important player right now. That may seem an absurd assessment given those he has around him, most notably Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino, all of whom contributed in their own ways to this triumph, but neither is it outlandish to suggest that without Henderson, Liverpool would be a notably diminished outfit. They may still be top by a distance, but they may well not be looking at a campaign in which they can not only clinch that long-awaited title but also achieve invincibility.

Seriously, he is that good, and has been for some time. Indeed, it is hard to remember the last occasion that all those old doubts and uncertainties about Henderson’s top-level credentials came to the fore. Opposition fans no longer have a stick to beat him with, and the angst that use to grip Anfield whenever discussions took place regarding Henderson’s suitability as Steven Gerrard’s successor has all but vanished. The current captain is not, and never will be, as great as the old one, but in his own right he is some leader and some talent.

That was evident throughout this contest, starting with the manner in which he gave Liverpool the lead after eight minutes – a header that was as powerful as it was accurate – to the way in which he controlled the tempo of their play from a deep-lying midfield role. Most crucially of all, he kept those around him focused on the job in hand, when they were largely on top in the first half and then after the break when Wolves performed with a level of intensity and purpose that for a while looked as if it was going to overwhelm their opponents and bring about what would have been their first league defeat in 386 days.

Watching Henderson in the flesh it really is noticeable how much he communicates with his teammates. He is constantly talking to them, constantly telling them where to be and where to go and, when required, handing out a good old-fashioned bollocking. This was the case on 27 minutes when he told Alexander-Arnold in no uncertain terms to drop back after a Liverpool attack had broken down.

“He played an unbelievable game tonight,” said Jürgen Klopp. “He was really shouting at everybody, keeping everybody on their toes, but it’s not just about shouting, it’s about what you say and he only asks for things he expects from himself.”

Of that there is little doubt, for this is a player who has gone on a journey of dogged self-improvement ever since he joined Liverpool in June 2011. Having led the side to Champions League glory last season Henderson is now, as Klopp said himself on the eve of this game, able to let his “natural quality” shine. That is particularly evident in his range of passing: short and quick, long and searching, he can do the lot. He showed that throughout this contest, most tellingly with the perfectly weighted delivery to Firmino on 84 minutes that led to the Brazilian cancelling out Raúl Jiménez’s equaliser with a thumping close-range strike.

It is now a remarkable 14 league wins in a row for Liverpool, which in turn has re-established their 16-point lead over Manchester City in this most one-sided of title races. Barring a truly spectacular collapse they will be champions and, with 15 fixtures remaining, the likelihood of them also ‘doing an Arsenal 2004’ and finishing the season unbeaten appears increasingly likely.

For Wolves came as close as anybody has this campaign to defeating Liverpool, with Adama Traoré yet again their most eye-catching threat, assisting Jiménez’s goal and increasingly forcing the visitors, who had been weakened by Sadio Mané’s withdrawal in the first half with a suspected hamstring injury, into retreat. But ultimately Liverpool stood firm and prevailed, their resilience and quality on this most testing of occasions personified by the man who deservedly remains on course to hoist the Premier League trophy in a matter of weeks: Jordan Brian Henderson.

As Klopp went on to say: “We couldn’t be in this situation without this type of character.”

Copyright - The Guardian

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