[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t has been less than an ideal start to the new campaign for Liverpool, with inconsistency and the post-Luis Suárez blues stunting Brendan Rodgers’ side in 2014-15.
A disappointing 2-2 home draw with Leicester on New Year’s Day, with the hosts relinquishing a two-goal lead, will have frustrated the Anfield faithful after a positive 4-1 victory over Swansea two days earlier – arguably the team’s best performance of the season.
A key feature in determining why the Reds went from the sublime to the sub-standard in such quick succession lies in the use of England midfielder Jordan Henderson.
The former Sunderland man has proven himself as an important figure at the Merseyside club after a questionable start to life at Liverpool and was a driving force behind the side’s rise to prominence last season.
The willing Henderson has operated in a number of different roles since his move to Anfield but it seems at times that his versatility may well actually be a downfall for the team.
Against Swansea Henderson played in his natural central midfield role and prospered; the 24-year-old created Alberto Moreno’s opener and was involved in most of the positive features of Liverpool’s play.
From the centre of the park Henderson offers a tireless work-rate that is comparative to that of a young Steven Gerrard and his energy, drive and box-to-box running were firmly on show in the win over the Welsh side.
Against Leicester, Gerrard returning to Rodgers’ starting XI alongside Lucas Leiva in the centre of midfield, with Henderson asked to play as a right wing-back in the bespoke 3-4-3 system.
In a wide role the England international could not exude as much influence over proceedings and although he put a shift in for the cause the midfielder again looked like a square peg in a round hole in the unfamiliar wing-back position.
There is no doubt that Henderson has the work-rate, crossing ability and tactical nous to play in a wide role if needed, but he was guilty of leaving Emre Can somewhat isolated at times.
For the good of the team, Liverpool would be best advised to restore Henderson to his best position in the centre of midfield so he can have more of an influence on play and can be heavily involved in the side’s possession game.
With Gerrard and Lucas in the heart of their side, Liverpool struggled to gain midfield ascendancy and press the ball against Leicester, while neither got forward to support the front three.
In the short term, it appears that only one of either Lucas or Gerrard should play in the holding role in the centre of the park, with the effervescent Henderson as a partner. This seems like a much better balance than playing two holding midfielders and will see Liverpool as a more dangerous opponent as a result.
In the long run, with Gerrard set to leave Anfield at the end of the season for a new challenge, Henderson will surely be even more important for the Reds and is the man that has the considerable qualities to replace the talismanic Liverpool legend.
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