Jordan Henderson: The First Six Games

Posted by

Follow me on Twitter @joescouse_lfc

As Jordan Henderson left the field in the 61st minute against Sunderland, Lucas Leiva would have been excused for breathing a sigh of relief. The heat is off, a new whipping boy is in town.
Henderson has received some harsh treatment on radio phone-ins, message boards and on Twitter since his first competitive hour in a Liverpool shirt.
In assessing whether this criticism is justified, the first place to look at is his distribution. His pass completion rate against Sunderland was 88%, the highest in the team. Here is where stats can be deceptive. Henderson only made 31 passes in the entire game. As a point of reference, Charlie Adam made 63. Of his 31 passes, just 8 were played forwards (24%).  To use Adam as the reference point again, of his 56 passes 33 were played forwards (59%). This is a remarkable difference. The high pass completion rate emphasises where things went wrong for Henderson: he was so afraid of making a mistake that inertia set in.
His ineffectiveness with the ball proven, let’s look at how he performed when we were chasing the game. Henderson was involved in just 4 50-50s. In comparison, Adam was involved in 17. Adam won 47% of his possession duals whilst Henderson won none. This adds weight to the rants about Henderson being a bit frigid when it comes to getting stuck in. It would be great to see how Henderson performed in aerial duals, but he was not involved in any. The same goes for shooting: he had no shots on or off target. Tackling? One, and it was unsuccessful.
The verdict watching the match was that Henderson did not do a great deal against Sunderland. The verdict from the statistical analysis proves this point conclusively
Kenny Dalglish is the type of manager who will put his arms around the shoulder of a player who is struggling. He understands better than most the importance of confidence. Dropping Henderson after that display could have set him back months. It was no surprise, then, that Henderson got a chance to redeem himself against Arsenal.
An analysis of his first full game for Liverpool helps us understand whether Kenny was right to stick with Henderson despite his abysmal display against Sunderland.
Henderson made a total of 59 passes against Arsenal, double the amount he managed against Sunderland. Impressively, his pass completion was 90% and importantly 24 of his passes went forwards. The improvement here is exponential and shows that Henderson has the ability to understand his development areas and make positive changes.  This is a very important attribute for a young player to possess.
Henderson’s all round display was better against Arsenal than it was against Sunderland. He created 2 chances, made 2 successful interceptions and even managed a shot on target.
However, Henderson still has a long way to go if he is to become the complete midfield powerhouse. He lost all 5 of the 50-50s he went in for, meaning that he now has a record of attempting 9 50-50 challenges and losing every single one of them.
He was not involved in any aerial duals meaning that, astonishingly, he is still to attempt to jump for a header against an opponent in a Liverpool shirt. He failed to make a single successful tackle in the entire match and was responsible for conceding 12 chances.  Henderson again offered plenty of ammunition for those fans looking for a new whipping boy.
Against Bolton, Henderson started his third consecutive league game for Liverpool. To his credit, it was comfortably his best performance in a Liverpool shirt. It was a day of firsts for Henderson. He managed to break his “Aerial Duel” duck, attempting to jump for two balls and even successfully heading one. He also got stuck in a bit, contesting an impressive eight 50-50 battles and coming out on top in four of them.
Another first for Henderson was his goal. It was taken very well and offered us a glimpse of the player he could develop into. As well as his goal, he also created four goal scoring chances from open play. His performance was impressive but limited. He has a deft touch but no grit, more Lampard than Gerrard.
Liverpool followed up their excellent performances against Arsenal and Bolton with two poor defeats away from home. The first was against Stoke. Henderson’s stats for this game show that he failed to win a tackle, he lost all three of the 50-50s he went in for and he again failed to win an aerial duel. Back to square one.
Against Tottenham the whole team had a car crash of a performance. It was a game so farcical it is hardly worthy of an analysis. It is fair to say, though, that making one tackle in a whole match is not good enough for a midfield player. With two players sent off, we needed the rest of the team to work extra hard. Henderson’s one tackle suggests that he did not even do the job of one man, never mind doubling up for those who were red carded.
His sixth consecutive league game, making him an ever-present this season, came against Wolves. With only one good performance so far, Wolves at home was Henderson’s chance to prove to the fans why he is keeping Maxi, Bellamy and Kuyt out of the first team.  A close look at this performance helps us to understand whether he is truly justifying his place in the first XI.
Passing is a key indicator of a good midfield performance. On the face of it, Henderson’s passing was decent yesterday. In the 72 minutes he was on the pitch he only attempted 25 passes, about one every three minutes, not exactly prolific. However, a total of 22 of them found their intended target, so one thing you cannot accuse Henderson of is being wasteful in possession. He was replaced by Dirk Kuyt, who made 9 passes in the 18 minutes he was on the pitch, which is one every two minutes. A 90% pass completion ratio shows that Kuyt, too, is very good at keeping possession.
A more in-depth look at the passing stats tells a different story. Only 28% of Henderson’s passes against Wolves went forwards. Given that we were attacking for most of the game, this is a very significant statistic. Rather than driving play forward, Henderson was holding things up. Kuyt’s play was far more positive. 66% of his passes went forwards during a period when Liverpool were basically playing out time for a 2-1 win. On top of this, 90% of Kuyt’s passes were made in the Wolves half of the pitch. He was a much more consistent threat.
Another really key indicator of how much a player contributes from midfield is the “touch” statistic. This shows how many times each player touched the ball. In 72 minutes, Henderson touched the ball a total of 31 times, once every 2.3 minutes. Kuyt touched the ball 12 times in 18 minutes, once every 1.5 minutes. This is a really clear indication that Kuyt offers more than Henderson from the right side of midfield. He gets involved more, he makes more penetrating passes and his all round contribution is better.
After six games in a Liverpool shirt, Henderson has shown potential, but not much more. He has shown that he has a great first touch, he is an intelligent footballer and he has a sweet right foot. All the indicators are there. He should develop into a really good player.
However, he is not there yet, and he is keeping players out of the team who contribute more than he currently is. In my opinion, at this stage in his career Henderson should be starting from the bench and coming on for Kuyt after 70 minutes, not the other way around.
Against Manchester United and Everton it is vital that we put our strongest XI out. We cannot risk having passengers. Tackling well and playing penetrating balls from midfield are vital. Getting on the ball is vital.  At this moment in time, Henderson is not doing these things often enough. He has simply not done enough in his first six games to warrant a starting place in either game.
Looking further forward, Jordan Henderson will come good, but he is a million miles away from his full potential.


  1. Good article, with an accurate assessment of Henderson’s contribution so far. What people seem to miss though is how poor Adam has been. Granted, he has contributed assists and goals with the type and range of passing that we have missed since Xabi left; but his lack of mobility and inability to tackle is being highlighted by being a central midfielder in a 4-4-2 formation. Sunderland, Wolves and Spurs both managed to dominate the centre of the park and push us deeper and deeper, due to their midfield runners not being picked up, with Adam having a large part of the culpability for this. He is simply not quick enough or defensively minded enough to play in that position. People are highlighting the holes in our defence but a part of this is due to the centre midfield’s inability to track the runners.

    Interestingly, Adam played in a 4-5-1 at Blackpool where he had no defensive responsibilities, where he thrived and was able to have the time to pick out those pinpoint passes on a regular basis. We either switch to 4-5-1 if we want to play him or drop him for Stevie G…

    1. yeah your right but.. i dont think Adam has been so so poor as u make it to be (apart from the tottenham game)…i think we already knew before we even bought charlie that his weakeness was his tackling and defensive side which suggests also that hes not so i think he cant be called poor coz thats how he has always been and he wud only keep gettin slower…and yes i think 4-5-1 is the way..
      reina-kelly-carra-DAgger-enrigue—downing-adam-lucas-gerrard-suarez—carrol up front

  2. Well written. Not harsh, and true to the stats.

    Henderson has potential, but should not be starting ahead of Dirk Kuyt.

    He was by far the most absent and culpable in the White Hart Lane massacre. He didn’t even try to support Martin Skrtel who was playing out of position and always going to struggle against Bale.

    Dirk Kuyt’s drive and determination have left an anonymous Bale in the past, it is quite baffling as to why he was left out of the game and with Modric and Adebayor to contend with, Charlie Adam would have been off on the bench for a more than willing Jay Spearing snapping at everyones heels.

    Totally agree that Henderson should be on the bench for Kuyt and not the other way round.

    Potential has a place in the future, not the present and Liverpool’s squad is definitely missing the quality Aquilani.

    I would be very surprised (& disappointed) if he starts ahead of Kuyt or Bellamy in the next two games, he is still raw and has a very long way to go.

    For all the people who complain about Kuyt, we are always worse off when he’s absent.

    Henderson was completely absent when Wolves scored, leaving Lucas to try to cover and ultimately be the one who was blamed for his “poor positioning” by people who clearly have no idea about the game.

    Henderson is not upto scratch at present and needs time and guidance.

    1. lol true..i DO complain about Kuyt..but i do realise we are worse off without much as i criticise him i know he is important..i jst cant stand how much he loses possesion or his first touch is his main weakness he is quite quick but not fast..and he needs to be accurate

  3. ps. Lucas breathing a sigh of relief is because when Kuyt comes on, he knows he doesn’t have to do 3 jobs anymore (for Adam & Henderson). With Kuyt’s team ethic on the pitch, he only has to do 1 and a 1/2.

  4. Don’t agree with this stats.KD please give hendo and carrol to a championship side as a gift cause they are rubbish in our great team.

    1. Can’t stand how fans nowadays expect instant perfection from players. He’s young and he’s learning so please, please give him a chance and don’t destroy him before he’s had the opportunity to mature into a great player he has the potential to be. Lucas also had the same issues now look at him, the same goes for Kuyt now fans are up in arms if he isn’t playing. Berbatov and Crouch are other players that came good after a difficult period and what about Bergkamp! It’s not easy playing for a big club with high expectations on your shoulders the same goes for Adam and Carroll they will be excellent and all you fickle fans will be eating your words. Majority of people that start a new job will initially struggle a little to settle but once they have that’s when you see the real person coming through and what they have to offer.

  5. Great read! Finally some stats to back up our thoughts. I agree completely, henderson needs time to learn and develop. Should definitely b on the bench and let either Bellamy or kuyt take his place. Kuyt especially doesn’t deserve to b on the bench. I’m sure hendo will b a good player but he’s not ready yet

  6. I think the same goes for carrol. He’s much more effective than hendo but there are better players on the bench up front i.e Bellamy and now gerrard who can play behind Suarez and link up more. We defo need to start playing our strongest 11. These other player will get there chance. I’m not knocking them, just that we have better options

  7. he looks to nervous, and lacks a bit of intellegence because of it. its not doing him good playing him most the time.
    were building for the future thats for sure but kuyte has to be playing down the right or downing with bellamy on the left.
    need to ease some presure off the poor lad.
    once he is settled like young players like kelly etc he will be fine. ynwa

  8. A bit ott on the stats. A basic comment in any analysis would be the three missed chances in a row by Henderson against Stoke which effectively cost us points.

  9. all these hysterical fans having pop at each other on forumns should remember its not about andy carrol,hendersen,or kenny dalglish,even history.its about liverpool fc.and to me you play your best team.the one thats in form.with players that are in form,and who gel.the team that causes opposition most options to win and kill a game off.which we aint doing.we need leaders.we currently drop off and lose shape causing panic if opposition has a spell.and implode if they score.some dont appear to like the ugly side.workrate,closing down,tenacity,leadership.and i can think of 3 at least who started sat,in my view,dont pocess enough of those qualities.i suggest most could name the 3.ild implore kenny more than ever,that in”the derby”,kuyt,bellamy must start.and ild have to question adams work rate for both games coming up!

  10. wow, what a stats analysis. On a gut feel, henderson generally is just an average player and your stats prove it so. Your stats showed that he does not win tackles, he does not head, he does not forage forward…How can we be any better than Manure if our guys keep passing backwards. I saw it in Carrager, in Lucas (he changed a lot),

  11. Thanks for this. I always like it when someone presents facts rather than just another opinion.

    That said…It would have been nice to see Bellamy rewarded for his mid week performance with a start.

  12. Interesting read, would be good to track our midfeild stats in a graphical format over the season to get a feel for whether Kenny is justified in his team selections each game. Compare players to each other.

    I like the info you provided on the percentage of passes forward and backwards, we all know Kenny is a positive manager that likes to see the lads drive forward so I am sure this lack of confidence moving the ball forward by Hendersen is going to lose him his position in time if his stats don’t pick up.

  13. It’s disheartening to see a player in the mold of Henderson keeping the likes of Bellamy, Kuyt, Maxi, Meireles, Aqua, and recently Stev out of the team. It is more disheartening to see Kenny gamble with our team all in the name of restoring confidence on some lads while the entire team suffer loss of confidence, and by extension loss of points. I put it to Kenny that non of his summer acquisitions with the exception of Jose, has added anything particular to that terrific team that ended last season; rather they depleted their standard. We had to struggle against Wolves because we played 9 against 11 for the better part of the game; because Adam too got missing after the deflected goal. I wouldn’t know what is going on in the minds of Kuyt, Bellamy, Maxi and particularly Stev, who is constantly swapped with the same Suarez he has been yearning to play with. Body language makes me believe Suarez is not enjoying the services/results he is getting, and we all know he is not a very patient person, so who knows…?

    1. true man very true..i think KK as much as people are “in kenny we trust” you all shud be smart enuf to see that he has ruined our midfield..and i dont get why henderson shud need time to settle..for godsake he has played in the premierleague a whole season before so its nothing new to him..haha they brought british players because they adapt easily but this dude henderson is struggling..why we loaned Aquilani i just cant bliv thats the Dumbest thing kenny Dalglish has done your best and most sharp player in pre season ends up getting loaned after impressing so please tell me why aquilani wudnt wana leave then? the same thing with meireless..getting benched for a crap player like hendo…i hope he comes good tho..but i totally dont bliv Henderson needs time time for what?…did anyone give Aquilani time????

  14. Brilliant article! analysis was great and comparison is even better! Henderson is really one to the future, specially with Gerrard back in the game!

    1. I hope that the future you talk about is way after the everton and united games because if henderson plays in these two games we will lose both,kuyt and bellamy and steve g must start these games if we are to win them.

  15. Interesting Article I hope Kenny himself see’s the major point of dropping Henderson for Kuyt,Bellamy or Maxi on the right these three players are proven and experienced players that goes defenders and make forward runs..Henderson for me isn’t good enough to be played on the right and I hope Kenny’s gamble doesn’t cost our team the more there is ample time to remedy things and put right players where they belong we cannot afford flimsy excuses come the end of the season if we couldn’t accomplish with likes of Henderson,Carroll.We all know the owners have invested a lot in this team and would want to see result I think Kenny had made mistake allowing Raul Miereles to go I could understand a bit about Aquilani but Raul Miereles should still have been kept maybe till january but now it’s gone.Let’s hope Steven Gerrad stays injury free but not guaranteed though Kenny should start playing Henderson in the central position and we can judge him the more there.

  16. ok agree with most.but heres one ild like putting on all forumns for reds to discuss.currently lfc best eleven,and bench when all available,for me is-pepe,kelly,carra,agger,enrique.downing,lucas,stevie,kuyt.suarez and bellamy.subs-doni,johnson,skrtel,adam,maxi,spearing{or hendo,on latest form,just spearing}and carrol.views please,fellow reds

    1. agreed, but would pick Johnson over Kelly for home games where there’s more emphasis on us to push forward and attack. Both great options though and am more than happy when either of them start.

  17. Liverpool i think have gotten very little of those £100m+..

    Suarez is pure quality, Enrique seems like a steal..Downing is a decent player, but why on earth are we buying English players? They are just not good enough compared to the price they got…over £60m for Downing, Henderson and Carrol compared to about half of it for Suarez, Enrique doesnt make much sense at all. So the first thing is the price, the second is that there is not enough quality in English football these days compared to other nations like French, Spain and Portugal..they all got amazing talent and what do England have? Where is the new Owen or Gerrard or Beckham? Did u guys see England u21 against Spain? It was two different sports…so tell me once more…why do we waste loads of money on English players when we dont have the amount Chelski and ManC have?

    Only reason i can see is that KD isnt really that found of foreign players…is there another reason that our amazing talented Suso and also Pacheco never had a real oppurtunity in first team but players like Flanno, Robinson, Spearing, Jonjo and even once Sterlign and Coady have had?

    I support Liverpool and want them to win as much as they can…i dont care where the players are from as long as they can play football…and sorry to say..we dont have many of them atm…

    1. Pool4Life:

      We are buying English players (well we really only bought 3) maybe for these reasons.

      1) there is such a thing called homegrown players.
      2) this the English Premier League and what is wrong with having players that will not leave and return to their country after a few years.
      3) you can actually win the EPL with English players, Man Utd did it and no one ever bitched about it.

      Rafa is Spanish and signed many Spanish players, Houllier is French and singed many French players, Kenny is Scottish and bought 1 Scottish player.

      1. okay antoine and are you bothered about having players that wud leave to their countries after few years or are u bothered about actually bringing in playters with quality to play for ur club no matter how long or short….someone like shola ameobi wudnt leave newcastle but he is crap shittttt…someone like tevez wants to leave but when he gets to play fr u he is quality..i thhink i wud rather go for the tevez part..and about homegrown players we hav shelvey spearing robinso, kelly pacheco has been hear for a whil he shud be homegrown too…and if u can actually win the league with english players whats up with sunderland, totenham aston villa, stoke all dem teams packed with english/british players forget man utd is a one off…chelsea won it twice with foreigners arsenal too, the only team with englis/brits dat has been succesful is man utd the rest are mid table…u wont win the league with the way carrol is playin but u can with the way aguero is playin(for about the same price tag)..kenny just wasted money on crap players..we missed out on ashley young jones mata and check all of dem out in their clubs dey are all excellent so far..but how about henderson=shit..adam=semi shit…downing and enrique are decent and good..bellamy cud be the best buy..instead of henderson was it not better to get seb Larsson or craig Gardner..dey are brits but much better dan dt crap…i say kenny wasted..but if it was rafa he wud be slated now..

  18. Henderson is only a mediocre player. Kenny is only trying to justify his signing. Kenny is a deluded fool who believes that his signings fell from heaven or smth. He doesnt realise he bought rubbish players.

  19. Best squad we can put on the field against everton and manutd:


    Kelly Coates Carragher Enrique

    Downing Gerrard Adam Rodriguez

    Bellamy Suarez

    1.Gerrard SHOULD play in the place of lucas. He can both defend and can contribute in the attack with his accurate passing and powerful shots, something lucas will never be able to do no matter how much he supposedly progressed…
    2.With these 4 attacking minded players in midfield I`m sure suarez will get sufficient service to bag a couple of goals.
    3.kuyt not good enough.His crosses and his shots are poor and he lacks dribbling skills. The only thing he can do is run endlessly on the field to compensate for his shortcomings. I admire his dedication and hard work but just like lucas he should be benched.
    4. adam may be too rash in his tackles and slow with the ball sometimes but he can provide those killer passes that can profit to luis and he is the best we`ve got in central now that aquilani and meireiles are gone. Henderson too young and effeminate.Should play in reserve until he matures a little.

    1. Fantastic article! It has been a long time since I have such a quality article.

      @lfcfanatik That formation will not be able to control the game. Both Gerrard and Adam like to go forward and Adam is poor in tracking runners, his tackling is awful to say the least and will probably get sent off if he has to tackle a rampaging ManU midfield for 90 minutes! Kuyt scored a Hat-trick against ManU and Lucas is a must in the midfield as he is about the only defensive midfielder we have. You might not rate him but i’ll take the professional opinion of 3 Liverpool managers and 2 Brazil managers on Lucas over yours. As for Kuyt, he was our top scorer last season and the only player in our squad that played in a world cup final, besides 3 LFC and Holland managers rate him along with the rest of us fans!

  20. Well written. If Bellamy, Gerrard and Kuyt had started against Wolves, it would have been a thrashing game. Downing on the left, Kuyt right, Gerrard supporting the pace of Suarez and Bellamy, all pacy attacking options and it would have just required 20 minutes of actual football to get 3-0 up. And then King can bloody rest anyone he wants.

    I just couldnt understand why King Kenny is not using his team to the fullest potential and instead deploying sub-standard newbies like Caroll and Henderson. They will be great but not quite there yet. And now we’re playing a chasing game again this season.

  21. Is n’t Henderson playing on the wing? Its not passes we should be talking about but how many crosses and runs he has been on down the right.He has had already TWO full seasons in the Premier League with Sunderland and should be showing more for a England U21 and full international.




  24. Leave the guy alone he must be under emense pressure already. He doesnt need slated evertime he plays. Two seasons ago i sat in the Kop & Lucas was gettin slated by a fan i turned to him and said Lucas isnt as bad as your making out. Give Henderson a proper chance KD must see something.

  25. excellent article – I suspected as much from our opening 6 games, not only does he not win 50-50 tackles but against Wolves he visibly bottled out of at least 2 or 3 tackles, and i’m surprised his forward pass ratio is even as high as 20-25%. Kenny needs to start with Kuyt for the next 2 games because the honeymoon’s now over with Henderson, if he continues to hide during matches and contribute next to nothing whilst keeping out the likes of Kuyt & Maxi then it’s only a matter of time until the crowd turn against him which will not do his confidence any good.

  26. Joe another good piece from your self.Never mind Kuyt,Bellamy and maxi,Jonjo is a better player than Hendo at the minute.Back in the day under shanks it didn’t matter who you were you had to learn the liverpool way before you got into the team,now I know we are in different times but young players IMO should go through a bedding in period.The fact is KD is playing him I would prefare to be reading positive blog’s.Ppl read these blogs and it doesn’t do any good IMO.If KD play’s him is it not he who should get the stick?

  27. hendo is for the future, in my opinion he will be good in midfield not winger. but i think our coach see what i can’t see. so i’ll wait for the future.

    and why he isn’t yet give big contribution for the club eventhough he was play with sunderland last season just because the pressure as liverpool’s player bigger than sunderland, because liverpool much bigger than sunderland.

Comments are closed