Lucas and Joe Allen Must Step Up for Liverpool in Absence of Jordan Henderson

Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson third right, is shown a red card by referee Mark Clattenburg left, after he fouls Manchester City's Samir Nasri during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, England, Sunday April. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)
Clint Hughes

One heavy touch and a lunging tackle in an attempt to recover from it means that Jordan Henderson's name will not be on a Premier League team sheet for Liverpool for the first time this season when they face Norwich City on Sunday.

The 23-year-old has started all 34 games so far, becoming an invaluable member of Brendan Rodgers' title-challenging side.

Jon Super

Henderson and captain Steven Gerrard have been the consistent figures in midfield during the incredible run of form in 2014; with Philippe Coutinho or Joe Allen lining up alongside the duo dependent on the opposition.

The Englishman's high-energy performances have allowed Gerrard to revel in his new deep-lying playmaker role and also got the best from Henderson himself, given more responsibility and freedom to get forward.

The euphoria of hanging on for the vital three points against Manchester City and receiving a straight red card for his challenge on Samir Nasri means Henderson will now miss the games at Norwich and Crystal Palace, and the visit of Chelsea. He will be a big miss.

 

Jordan Henderson's loss will be absolutely massive. His intelligent play & work-rate integral to the success this season. Huge, huge loss.

— Simon Clancy (@SiClancy) April 13, 2014

 

Arguably, Henderson's absence will actually be more of a loss than Daniel Sturridge's. Liverpool have shown they can cope without Sturridge on several occasions this season, not least during the run that saw them travel to Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea in December when Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho created a fluid front three.

 

Lucas and Allen

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 26:  Joe Allen of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on March 26, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The loss of the two of them means Rodgers will likely return to that setup for the trip to Norwich, with Allen and Lucas Leiva coming into the midfield three alongside Gerrard.

The Northern Irishman can either play a diamond midfield, with Coutinho at the tip of the diamond and Sterling higher up alongside Suarez, or a three-man midfield with Lucas and Allen as the two ball carriers either side of the captain.

Earlier in the season, Liverpool supporters, myself included, worried about the quality of Rodgers' midfield. It lacked options and it lacked depth.

However, since moving Gerrard into a deeper role, and moving Coutinho into the middle three on regular occasions, the balance has improved, the quality has improved immeasurably and the options have subsequently doubled too.

In recent weeks we've seen Allen make good contributions in his performances, most notably in the away performances at Southampton and Manchester United. Lucas too has performed since his return from injury, most notably as a second-half substitute at West Ham.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Winston Reid of West Ham and Lucas Leiva of Liverpool compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on April 6, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike He
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The duo now have a huge opportunity to make a big impression on the season during these final four games.

A midfield of Gerrard, Lucas and Allen may not be the most dynamic that Rodgers can put out but it is one that can allow the attacking talents of Suarez, Sterling and Coutinho the freedom to express themselves in the final third.

It may also be that Glen Johnson is offered more freedom to get into advanced positions, in the knowledge that Lucas is able to cover for him capably.

Liverpool's squad is not the biggest in the Premier League, far from it, but Rodgers has been able to keep those players on the fringe of the squad involved and now is the time for Lucas and Allen to step up in Henderson's absence.