For once, Luis Suarez isn’t the overwhelming subject of the back pages. Monday morning’s newspapers were instead full of superlatives for Liverpool’s man of the match against Tottenham on Sunday, Jordan Henderson.
Alan Smith wrote in the Telegraph:
Henderson proved yesterday that, despite the preconceptions, he has an awful lot to offer. The 23-year-old was superb at White Hart Lane in helping the visitors to demolish sorry Spurs. In the first half he was incredibly effective, whether it was closing down opponents to nick the ball or timing his runs to pierce the home defence.
Meanwhile, Twitter was trending with positivity for his outstanding display:
If actions speak louder than words, Jordan Henderson proved once again, why he is a leader on the current team.— Mark Poletti (@markpoletti) December 16, 2013
The talk in the city today is not of Gerrard or Suarez but of Jordan Henderson. Great for him.— Colin Buckle (@T13CDB) December 16, 2013
A Praiseworthy Performance
It was indeed a superb performance from the 23-year-old and one worthy of so much praise from the media and fans.
The former Sunderland midfielder worked tirelessly to chase down balls and take the game by the scruff of the neck.
At times he controlled the pace of the game all by himself, like a conductor in charge of an orchestra.
Time and time again, Henderson would pick up the ball in the middle of the park and spread an inch-perfect ball through to the attack before sprinting to be part of that threat.
However, it feels as if the Henderson bandwagon set off at full-time of Sunday’s victory in North London, and everyone is jumping on it back to Merseyside.
Players Can Change—but Not Overnight
Played out of position during his first season at the club in 2011/12, and in times of rapid change under Kenny Dalglish and then Brendan Rodgers, it became all too easy to for the media to label Henderson as another transfer flop.
But players improve, and it’s okay to change one’s mind about the ability and potential of a player.
On Sunday night’s Match of the Day on BBC One, Mark Lawrenson suggested Henderson had become a new player in Steven Gerrard’s absence.
As much as players can get better and step up their game, it is not something that happens magically overnight.
For quite some time, Henderson has been in outstanding form for Liverpool—which has culminated in him laying down a first-team place.
Just this season, he has constantly gone beyond the call of duty to cover for a weak central midfield.
He has shown versatility, playing centrally, on the right and left wings and in the hole behind Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Jordan Henderson is improving all the time. Credit to him and Brendan Rodgers; both recognised he has it in him to represent this club.— Liam Tomkins (@liam_tomkins) December 16, 2013
Throughout, his athleticism, hunger and natural instinct for where his teammates are has been a delight to watch and an integral part to Liverpool’s outstanding early-season form.
According to Squawka, Henderson has created 30 chances and has an average pass accuracy of 87 percent in his 16 appearances this season.
There is a reason he has missed just 22 minutes of Premier League football for Liverpool this season.
Outside of Liverpool Football Club, there seems to have been an unmentioned stigma attached to praising Henderson.
Whether it be an unwillingness to accept that a high transfer fee gamble on such a young, unproven talent could ever work for Liverpool, or Alex Ferguson’s rant about Henderson’s gait, the media has struggled to embrace his talents until now.
Roy Hodgson has played a major role in that representation of Henderson, too, often inexplicably overlooking Henderson for the underperforming Tom Cleverley at the international level.
Indeed, even Rodgers had his doubts when he arrived at the club to tell Henderson he could move to Fulham, should he wish to.
Hopefully the former critics of him have changed their tune for good and are orderly forming a queue to become fully fledged members of the Henderson fan club.