So we have our first signing of the summer, the very promising Jordan Henderson. Described by Comolli as ‘one of the big targets we had’. Henderson, a 20 year midfielder moves into a squad with plenty of competition. With rumours circulating that we are still in pursuit of Charlie Adam this has prompted friends, foes and I to ponder the new system. What has King Kenny and his merry men got up their sleeve.
When confronted with the questions regarding Henderson, there are two that seem to be of concern; why spend so much? And where does this leave Gerrard?
I had my first blog request relating to the second question, so when this request was made my ego refused to say no and I said no problem. In my head however I was saying, I have not got and (insert expletive here) clue!
As with so many occasions throughout the years captain fantastic saved the day again, a day or two after the request Gerrard was quoted saying;
“It’s a really positive signing. Let’s hope he is the next Steven Gerrard,” he told the Liverpool website.
“Good football clubs replace their best players. Liverpool need a new Gerrard and need a new Jamie Carragher.” BBC website
So there’s your answer. Henderson will be cover and an eventual replacement for Stevie.
Of course, we know it’s not that simple, but it isn’t far from the truth. However there is much more to Henderson than being a box to box centre midfielder. He is also very competent on the right hand side of midfield with the ability to provide excellent service. With Henderson having to compete against the likes of Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Jay Spearing, Raul Meireles, Jonjo Shelvey and Christian Poulsen for a place in the Liverpool midfield and also having the strike force of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez this may come in handy.
Back to the question in hand, where does Steven Gerrard fit in now? To fairly evaluate this question I think we should reverse the question to; where does Henderson or any other midfielder fit? I mean, since when did Stevie need to justify his selection?
Option 1 – Henderson on the right
I believe we could see Henderson introduced on the right in his early days at Anfield. With the centre of midfield proving very effective in the second part of the last season, it would be a shame to disrupt that. This would see Stevie implemented in the same way. If Stevie isn’t available we have players to fill that gap, possibly Henderson.
Option 2 – Rotation
I am uncertain as to how likely rotation is, however Dalglish may look to utilise Henderson in Stevie’s role. As Stevie mentioned, the club will need to look to the future, and this is congruent to what we believe is the strategy of the club. Before last season Stevie averaged 41.5 games. Last season due to injury and being rested in games such as the Europa he played 24 games. Dalglish may want to keep Gerrard as fresh as possible, in which case using someone to fill his role. This is less likely I feel as Henderson whilst still young is premiership ready. Moreover, we have no European football next season, and with Stevie announcing that he feels better than ever, perhaps he won’t need resting.
Option 3 – Adjust the system
Alternatively there could be a change of system. Maybe we will see Gerrard utilised in a more defensive role, playing alongside Henderson, helping him and acting as a mentor on the pitch. I have to admit, I like the thought of the master and the student working together, tearing apart defences with the mix of skill, experience and youthful enthusiasm.
So as this summer’s transfer window really starts to gather pace I am not sure whether I am excited, concerned or somewhere in between. Of course, how Liverpool approach next season should become clear as the transfer window continues, more arrivals and departures are certainties.
My answer to the original question, where does Gerrard fit into the team now, is that signing Henderson has not created a selection problem. If anything it has opened several doors. All three of the above options could be utilised next season. Furthermore, we now have the prospect of a formidable midfield partnership, ushered by the tenacity of Meireles and the graft of Lucas. He is also an investment to the future of Liverpool, not just next season.
To conclude, on face value, Henderson is a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit, but delve a bit deeper, and he is a puzzle piece that could be used in many ways.