Jordan Henderson to Be Liverpool's Breakout Player of 2013-14
Henderson, who was signed for a reported £16 million as part of former manager Kenny Dalglish's summer spending spree of 2011, has so far failed to justify his hefty price tag.
Despite failing to live up to expectations, there can be no doubting that "Hendo" always gives 100 percent, and there were glimpses during the latter stages of the 2012/13 season that the former Sunderland man did in fact have the ability to match the effort and belief he so regularly displays.
Minutes per Goal Involvement
With Brendan Rodgers appearing to favour Steven Gerrard as a deep-lying playmaker, Henderson has been given the freedom to push forward into a more advanced role, and his link-up play with Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho has at times been exceptional.
During the previous Premier League campaign, only three midfielders had better minute-per-goal-involvement ratios for their teams than Henderson.
On a personal note, despite not featuring as often last season as he did in his first season at Anfield, Henderson's return of five goals in 16 league starts was a significant improvement on the two goals he managed from 31 starts during his debut campaign.
It is testament to the faith that Rodgers now has in Henderson that he was selected ahead of midfield rival Joe Allen for the his side's opening-day victory over Stoke City, as many fans believe that Allen is a personal favourite of the Reds manager.
Henderson more than justified his inclusion and looked lively throughout with the only goal of the game coming on 37 minutes through a Sturridge strike.
He was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself when his crisp drive beat Asmir Begovic in the Stoke goal but rebounded off the post and back into play.
What struck me about Henderson, though, was his willingness to always want the ball. He was looking to get forward and make things happen and looked a real attacking threat.
It is this bright start that gives me the belief that we are about to witness arguably the most remarkable turnaround in the career of any Liverpool player.
Despite previously having claimed that Martin Kelly would be the Reds' breakout star of the new season, the fact that Henderson looks to have won over both his manager and the fans has made me reconsider.
Competition for Places
At a club like Liverpool, there is always competition for places, but if Henderson can build on the form he showed in preseason and on the opening weekend of the season, then it could be difficult for his rivals to shift him.
He deserves credit for belief he has in his own ability and for the self-belief that he continues to show. A self-belief that, despite criticism from all quarters, never wavered.
Rewind just 12 months, and Henderson appeared to be on his way out of Anfield. A £5 million move to Fulham was mooted, but it is testament to his character that, via SkySports, he rejected the move in favour of staying and fighting for his place in the Reds side.
Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam—other big-money buys brought in by Dalglish at around the same time as Henderson—have all moved on.
But rather than admit defeat and show the doubters they were right, Henderson has stayed; he has fought; and, slowly but surely, he looks to be silencing his doubters.
Influence of Others
As well as continuing to work hard on the pitch and continuing to believe in himself, Henderson needs to take advantage of those he has around him.
Although Jamie Carragher has gone, Gerrard remains, and for Henderson there can be no better player to learn from.
Call me crazy, but there is something about Henderson that reminds me of a young Gerrard: a versatile box-to-box midfielder who can pass, shoot and tackle and whose enthusiasm, energy and commitment are second to none.
Now I'm not saying we have got the next Steven Gerrard on our hands, because for me there will never be another Gerrard.
However, if Henderson is willing to observe and study his captain's game and take on board all the advice he is willing to pass on, then once Gerrard's day is finally up, the Reds may not have to look far to find his replacement.
A big claim? We shall see.
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