Liverpool FC: Does the Arrival of Jordan Henderson Return Gerrard to the Wing?
Liverpool must improve the overall standard of their squad during this summer's transfer window. They have made an aggressive start to this process with the imminent acquisition of Jordan Henderson.
The merseyside club announced that a fee had been agreed on their official website today.
While Henderson is a very good young player with the potential to be a star for the club in the future, the reported fee of £20 million likely means that Kenny Dalglish sees him as a player that is expected to contribute immediately.
There is no doubt that he is a better player than Jay Spearing and further along in his development than Jonjo Shelvey. However he is arriving into a squad that has somewhat of a crowded midfield.
Spearing found a certain comfort level alongside Lucas during last season while Raul Meireles can play on the wing but is a better fit in the center. Steven Gerrard may have just celebrated his 31st birthday but don't expect him to be sitting on the bench any time soon.
Jordan Henderson is a very versatile footballer who can play anywhere across the midfield but there is no doubt that his best position is in the center. He was bought by the club to be a central midfielder of the future and probably to become Steven Gerrard's eventual long-term replacement.
Gerrard may look to step aside sooner rather than later but won't be heading to the bench anytime soon.
A few seasons back when Liverpool had Xabi Alonso and an emerging Mohammed Sissoko in the center of their midfield, Gerrard was moved to the right side of midfield by then manager Rafa Benitez. Gerrard actually starred on the right hand side despite admitting that it wasn't his preferred position.
The fact that Gerrard was given a clear objective on the outside, and had played there many times before when he first broke into the team, allowed him to excel at his task. His pinpoint crossing, precision passing and work rate to quell attacking full backs makes him the perfect right winger.
Eamonn Dunphy once, in my opinion, made a very accurate assessment of Steven Gerrard. Dunphy said something along the lines of 'Gerrard is a central midfielder that can produce world class moments but he is not a world class central midfielder.' While that is not a direct quote, what I found it to be is the perfect assessment of Gerrard as a player.
He is a very good central midfielder but he is somewhat unorthodox in the way he plays. He does not look to link up play with short simple passes like most midfielders. Gerrard prefers to go for the killer ball. This does not make him a bad player in fact if you'll note I recently ranked him 10th in the world over the past five years.
Gerrard best serves his team when he is assigned a job and told to go do it. If you think back to the Champions League final in 2005. During the latter parts of that game the team had no right back after Steve Finnan went off injured at half time. Gerrard, who was suffering with cramp, was shifted to the right hand side to shut down the energetic Serginho.
When playing in the center of the Liverpool midfield he has too much freedom and less direction. This is why Gerrard's best ever season came when he wasn't playing in the middle of the field. He didn't play on the right hand side then but he only had one main objective as an attacker with the ball: feed Fernando Torres.
Gerrard obviously can't go back to that position now as Luis Suarez is going to be fitted behind Andy Carroll whenever healthy. The team could still improve on the right hand side however. Dirk Kuyt may be a good option to pop up with a goal every now and then but he remains, since the very first day he moved into midfield, a striker playing wide.
Kuyt would be a great player to have as a second striker and backup to the starters but his inability to consistently link up play and hold onto possession hurts the team too much. Moving Gerrard to the right would instantly improve that area of the field and create more depth up front as Kuyt would be allowed to return to his natural position. He is a goal scorer. That is where he belongs.
Gerrard on the right doesn't just improve the team right now but it allows Jordan Henderson to continue his development. Henderson is too good of a player to be loaned out and has already spent the best part of two seasons playing in the Premier League.
At 20 years of age he is ready to step into the limelight of being a Liverpool football player and start right away. Henderson is a player that needs to be given every chance to prove that his new club, and manager, were right to splash out on his signature.
Giving him the chance to start immediately at his preferred position is best for the club immediately and in the future.
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