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Why Jordan Henderson is now “the guy” at Liverpool

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ordan Henderson has had an up-and-down time at Anfield, and, before this campaign, has even been referred to as “a waste of money.” This season, however, he has proven his worth, as he has been in good form and performed well as captain in the absence of the great Steven Gerrard.

The 24-year old Sunderland product has certainly cemented his spot in the starting XI, whether it be acting as vice-captain alongside Gerrard or as captain with Joe Allen or whoever else Brendan Rodgers throws in there. The question is, with Gerrard preparing for his exit to the United States in the summer, is Jordan Henderson ready to be “that guy” for Liverpool?

Henderson left Sunderland for Liverpool for around £20 million in 2011, and has since become a staple at Anfield. Enduring speed bumps and growing pains, he has grown into a regular starter, and even a fan favourite for some. But, at the time of Henderson’s arrival, the end of Stevie G’s tenure was nowhere in sight. Now, with Gerrard’s departure imminent, it’s time to decide if Jordan Henderson can fill his incredibly large boots.

Let’s face it, nobody can be Steven Gerrard. One of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch at Anfield is not replaceable by any means, but somebody has to step into that role. That somebody is Jordan Henderson.

Start with Henderson’s performance against Manchester City on Sunday. He was all over the field, making strong tackles as well as passes, including some of the longer, cross-pitch passes that Gerrard trademarked, and Henderson has become quite skilled at himself. Then, look at his goal. One of the most incredible goals scored by any Red this season, Henderson took a touch that set up a difficult angle for a shot, but found the top corner anyway. The strike even led Gary Lineker to tweet: “Absolutely stunning goal from Henderson. Gerrardesque…” Some may argue that point, but there’s really no denying that Henderson’s fantastic finish resembled some of the many incredible goals Gerrard has scored over his illustrious career. This performance, coupled with many others over this campaign, showed that perhaps Henderson is ready to fill the void.

Henderson followed up a phenomenal outing against Manchester City with yet another fine display against Burnley at Anfield on Wednesday. Starting with another superb strike, this one a volley that shockingly resembled Gerrard’s famous goal in the Champions League against Olympiakos. He followed that first half goal up with a second half cross that almost seemed to magnetically attach itself to Daniel Sturridge’s head. Sturridge, of course, put the ball in the back of the net, helping Liverpool to a strong 2-0 victory. So, again, here we are, discussing how Henderson’s skills on the field seem to resemble Gerrard’s more and more as each game passes.

The argument against Henderson isn’t about skill, as the captain doesn’t necessarily have to be the most skillful player on the pitch (although it can be argued that Gerrard was for some time). The real problem most have with Henderson is his leadership, highlighted by the controversial penalty argument between him and Mario Balotelli.

Jordan Henderson’s leadership should be of no worry to Liverpool fans. He understood that his role as captain during the match put him at the penalty spot, so he took on his role. However, a player with the penalty taking skill of Balotelli should be the one on the spot, regardless of which player Brendan Rodgers designated (which is still up for debate). Henderson, realizing that Balotelli was the better penalty taker, stepped aside, and it paid off.

The penalty controversy has nothing to do with leadership, and, if it does, it should actually reflect well on Henderson. He understood that there was a player with a better chance to convert, and he let him take it. The decision paid off for Liverpool in the end, as Henderson made the right decision, and Balotelli cashed in on the penalty.

Jordan Henderson possesses the skill, and he has the leadership abilities at the ripe age of 24. His ceiling is high, and there is plenty of potential for even more improvement. As the Steven Gerrard era comes to a close, there is little doubt that Jordan Henderson can be the future at Anfield. Many will say that claim is ridiculous, as Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, and others look more like “the future.” However, it will be Henderson leading those men. Steven Gerrard will be missed, and Jordan Henderson probably will not match what Stevie G did for Liverpool, but Henderson will grow into his own, and it is clear that the new captain is in fact the future of Liverpool Football Club.

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