Liverpool's damp squib of a defeat to Manchester City on Monday night was a disappointment and a football critic's dream opportunity to pick holes in Brendan Rodgers' side, but the Reds will look to players such as Jordan Henderson to pick them back up when they go to Tottenham in the Premier League this Sunday.
The Making of Henderson
This fixture last season was the making of the Sunderland-born England international—although some more observant followers of Liverpool may argue it was merely the game that brought his exceptional talent to a wider audience.
Henderson had enjoyed a solid start to the 2013-14 season, playing in the middle of a flatter midfield four than the diamond formations Rodgers has engineered since.
Steven Gerrard's injury forced the Liverpool captain to miss the Premier League clash at White Hart Lane on 15th December, 2013, allowing Henderson to take his opportunity to prove what he was capable of.
Having worked closely with Dr Steve Peters, the club's psychiatrist, Henderson transformed from a player who once looked overwhelmed by his selection in Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool side to a player who believed he was good enough to wear the Liver Bird upon his chest.
Henderson later put his resurgent career down to his work with Dr Peters, telling Simon Mullock of the Mirror:
I’ve been speaking to Steve for exactly a year now and have felt massive benefits from it.
I feel really strong mentally. It has 100 per cent helped me, but again it’s another aspect you’ve got to keep working on, to improve and get stronger.
It’s secondary to the physical attributes, but I think most people would agree that what you take on the pitch in your head is quite critical.
The then 23-year-old's ferocious performance drove Liverpool on to a wholly impressive and confident 5-0 victory over Tottenham that day.
Jordan Henderson vs Spurs: 58 passes completed, 1 interception, 100% tackle success, 3 chances created, 92% pass accuracy & 1 goal. #LFC— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 15, 2013
Spurs couldn’t cope with Henderson’s energy, movement, invention, passing, pressing – and finish. Surely the best he’s played for #lfc— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) December 15, 2013
The work rate he showed to chase down loose balls for Luis Suarez to give the visitors the lead was later matched by a world-class volley for a goal of his own.
Henderson completely bossed the game, achieving a pass accuracy rate of 92 per cent, winning 100 per cent of his aerial battles and having more touches on the ball than any other player on the pitch, as per WhoScored.com.
Having now firmly established himself as a first-team starter, Liverpool regularly look to Henderson to be that driving force in the heart of the side—a workhorse-like catalyst between defence and attack.
With an abundance of attacking talent around him, Rodgers will be relying on Henderson to carry the ball forward and work in unison with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.
His pinpoint through-ball to Sterling for the Reds' first goal of the season against Southampton earlier this month bodes well for the natural instinct for goals that Mario Balotelli will bring.
Henderson's rise and progression under Rodgers continues at pace with both the player and his manager constantly raising the bar of expectation for him.
His determination over the whole of any given 90 minutes and his strength in character make him a prime candidate for future Liverpool captain, and he may be poised to take on the current role of vice-captain if rumours of Daniel Agger's departure before the transfer window closes, as per Tom Sheen of The Independent, prove to be true.
Henderson already plays his part in leadership in the team, armband or no armband, and he recently told the club's official website:
I try to help people as much as I can.
Whether that is giving them confidence or instruction, I try to do as much as I can to help the team. I think that’s important sometimes.
That’s just the way people are; some people are vocal, some people aren’t. People lead in different ways, whether that’s setting an example on or off the pitch.
It depends what type of person you are and everybody is different. I feel that we’ve got a good mix in the group.
The energy, ability and ambition Henderson radiates in his game is what will lift Liverpool from the defeat at Man City on Monday and onto better things when they face Tottenham this weekend.