Liverpool thrashed Javi Gracia’s Watford at Anfield in a 5-0 masterclass, with 4 of the goals coming from the man in form, Mohammed Salah.
The entertainment on display from Liverpool’s front three means that the work of Jordan Henderson, deep in the Liverpool midfield, may have gone unnoticed, writes Maryam Naz.
The Liverpool captain has been repeatedly criticised for his inconsistent performances across the season, yet his disciplined second half display helped them clinch three points against the Hornets.
Henderson has often been criticised for his lack of creativity and movement in the centre of the pitch, yet after careful scrutiny of his performance, it is evident that he is a vital cog in Jurgen Klopp’s schemes.
In the first half, he was often the first man to second balls and was able to gather them quickly and redistribute to more attacking players such as the left-back, Andy Robertson.
He had a good understanding of the players around him and whenever players like Virgil van Dijk strayed from the defence to march into the midfield area, he always filled in the gap to ensure defensive stability.
Hendo completed the most final third passes today, and the most long passes apart from Watford’s GK. All 7 of his accurate long passes went into the final third too. So he did plenty right today, whatever issues he may also have had. pic.twitter.com/C30jwniXEg
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) 17 March 2018
Despite this, there were a few sloppy, misplaced passes in the first-half that nearly put Troy Deeney in a position to score, which showed that the other, less impressive, side of his game hasn’t gone away.
In the second half, though, he came out of his shell and began to dictate the creative play ahead of him. On 4 occasions, he played wonderful long balls, aimed centrally or diagonally, that were inch-perfect in their accuracy.
On two occasions this led to Salah and Roberto Firmino nearly adding to Liverpool’s score.
He made plenty of forward passes as Liverpool put their foot on the gas, as opposed to the sideways and backwards passes seen in the first-half.
Come 90 minutes, the captain had done a very good job in marshalling the midfield area, showing his defensive capabilities as well as his vision for forward play.
Yet a lot of this goes unnoticed, if you aren’t really watching what’s he’s doing for the 90 minutes, and if you’re not distracted by the mesmerising attacking play by Liverpool’s front three. He is often criticised for his lack of leadership, flair and vigour in the centre of the pitch.
His critics were particularly vocal after the 3-3 draw against Sevilla in the group-stages of the Champions League, where the England international had fewer touches than their own keeper Loris Karius.
Since then, the dissent against him has continued and has perhaps been a contributing factor in some of his sub-par performances.
Yes, he’s no Salah, but he doesn’t have to be. There is no denying that from his evident work-rate and effort, he deserves the captain’s armband.
If there is one thing he does need to work on, it’s the accuracy of passes, and more often than not, the accuracy of basic passes.
He has shown that he is very capable in picking out players further up the pitch, but as a player who often finds himself in his own penalty box at times, basic passing is crucial, otherwise mistakes such as those he made in the first half can lead to unnecessary pressure being created, and even goals being scored.
It is clear why there are so many Liverpool fans that would prefer for him not to wear the armband, or even feature in this Klopp side, yet to them, I say this: Next time Liverpool play, watch him, and only him, for 90 minutes. Watch what he does and how he plays and try not to look at what Salah or Firmino are doing .
It’s difficult, isn’t it? Proof that what he’s doing for the team does go unnoticed. The truth is, his inclusion in the team makes it easier for those playing both in front of him and behind him, and as the captain of this Liverpool side, the fans of the club should show him a little more respect.