Liverpool’s injury crisis at centre back has been well documented this season with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson often having to deputise in the position.
In recent weeks the Reds have found themselves not only without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez but also Joel Matip whose injury record continues to plague his Liverpool career. This has meant that the club has often had to deploy BOTH Henderson and Fabinho at centre half removing them from their usual central midfield positions.
And while the midfield has certainly missed the pair, it has to be said that both players have excelled in their new roles.
Fabinho has played at centre back for much of the season and is perhaps better suited to the defensive role given his regular job as a number six, and his experience at full-back earlier in his career.
For Henderson though it has been a completely new challenge. The skipper is used to dictating the tempo and driving Liverpool forwards with his athleticism so some eyebrows were raised when he lined up there for the first time away to Southampton.
While Liverpool slumped to a 1-0 defeat it was in attack where the match was lost and many observers were impressed with the way Henderson conducted himself at the back.
Since then he’s played four matches in total in the position including the 3-1 away victories at Tottenham and West Ham.
While Liverpool look set to bring in Deadline Day additions to address the Reds’ centre back issues it’s fair to say that Henderson has made an impact in the role.
So much so that it begs the question could he play there fulltime. We take a look at some of the key reasons why Henderson could be a future Liverpool centre back in the making…
Henderson as a leader
It is no secret that one of Henderson’s best qualities is his leadership. Since Covid-19 hit the football world this has become even more evident as his screams of encouragement or advice to teammates have been heard by viewers everywhere during Liverpool’s games.
Regularly dragging players into the correct position, keeping people focused and maintaining the side’s pressing patterns and shape, he is arguably the sides most invaluable player.
You only have to look at Liverpool’s midfield when he is out of the team to see the impact he has. The tempo is often slower and there is less urgency in the side as a whole.
Arguably the centre back position can help him carry out this role even more.
Able to see the entire picture of the game in front of him, he’s taken on the Virgil Van Dijk role at the back organising set-pieces and Liverpool’s notoriously high-line.
While Liverpool are made up of a great group of players who all do whatever it takes to win, Henderson perhaps wears his heart on his sleeve more than most.
His desire goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned leadership qualities and putting his body on the line is of no consequence if it prevents a goal or opposition attack.
Whether he’s demanding more from his teammates, hurling himself in front of a long-range shot or berating the officials, he cares about the club and has a never say die attitude that is infectious.
His passing range
One of the factors that has seen Liverpool achieve so much success over the last three years is the team’s ability to mix up their attacking play.
Part of this is that they’re quite happy to go direct if necessary with a long ball over the top to one of the front three. This was a huge advantage when Virgil Van Dijk was in the team because as well as being one of the best centre backs on the planet he can pick a pass just as well as a creative midfielder.
This is something Henderson has in his locker too. Since moving to centre back he’ll often receive the ball at his feet and play an inch-perfect pass over the opposition’s midfield to a forward player.
For example, during the win over West Ham in London he played 92 passes with a pass completion rate of 90.2% showing his excellent ability in this area.
In summary, it’s clear that Jordan Henderson is more than capable of playing centre back. While this is a potential option for the future as he gets a little older and perhaps less mobile, for now, Klopp and Liverpool probably don’t want to displace him from the midfield too regularly.
As previously mentioned he is the spark for much of the Reds’ attacking play and as has been seen during the club’s recent dip in form, removing him from that area of the pitch can have an adverse effect on the entire system.