Few could have expected Jordan Henderson to be the subject of transfer speculation this summer. Although Liverpool are undergoing a midfield rebuild, it always seemed a given that the Reds captain would have a role to play, even if his starting options were reduced.
But recent relations with Saudi Arabia created some doubts. While there’s no denying Henderson’s affinity for Liverpool, any kind of offer from football’s newest powerhouse league is likely to turn a player’s head.
According to a new report from Daily mail However, Henderson will not be reuniting with Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq. Instead, the Liverpool captain will report back to training, where a new plan may await him.
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The 33-year-old had to take on a relatively unknown role at the end of last season. Henderson was lined up in his usual place as a right-sided number eight, but as a consequence of Jürgen Klopp’s tactical change, he faced challenging new tasks.
Across Liverpool’s last 10 games, the Reds defended using their go-to 4-3-3, which consists of Henderson performing effectively as a box-to-box midfielder. On the attacking side of the game, however, Klopp instructed his players to adopt a sort of 3-2-5 shape with a new look.
Trent Alexander-Arnold started the rotation by drifting into central midfield from right-back to play alongside Fabinho. Left-back Andy Robertson then created a back three with Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté and Henderson pushed up towards the final third with Curtis Jones on the opposite side.
After implementing the change, Liverpool went on a fantastic unbeaten run. Seven wins and three draws suggested Klopp’s players had benefited from the changed dynamic, with Jones, Fabinho and Alexander-Arnold in particular seeing improved form.
The Anfield outfit had specifically benefited from the composition of the new box midfield. With Fabinho alongside Alexander-Arnold and Henderson pressing up alongside Jones, Liverpool had been able to form a box shape in the center of the field and this allowed the Reds to dominate proceedings for the most.
But while many players flourished, Henderson actually had to play as a number 10 when his side had possession. The 33-year-old is known for a wide range of qualities, from leadership to intensity to work-rate to discipline, but it’s fair to suggest that his name is not associated with creativity and technical brilliance.
Henderson continues to be a natural when it comes to Klopp’s defensive play, but in possession the 3-2-5 formation essentially asks him to play as part of a five-man attacking bank, with the likes of Cody Gakpo, Mohamed Salah, and Diogo Jota to name just three examples.
The England international had to play in tight spaces, receive the ball under pressure and create chances for those around him. Jones had to do the same from the left of midfield, but the Reds academy graduate looks more comfortable as a makeshift number 10, having gained experience as a striker in his youth days.
It remains to be seen where Henderson’s future lies on the pitch if Klopp wants to stick with his fresh tactical plan next season, but the additions of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai suggest he could be taking up a new place in the team .
Both of these talents would suit the roles occupied by Henderson and Jones during the last run-in, and Klopp’s captain may need to play as a more established midfielder moving forward, perhaps even as back-up to Fabinho.
The landscape is still a bit up in the air as players return for pre-season, but next term Klopp could have Fabinho, Henderson and youngster Stefan Bajčetić as options for the number six role alongside Alexander-Arnold, with the likes of Jones , Mac Allister, Szoboszlai and Harvey Elliott play higher up as creators.
The Liverpool captain has previously expressed his belief that he is better further forward than as a team player, but given that he is now 33, Klopp has no choice but to integrate the next generation, even if it means relegating his most trusted lieutenant to a place on the bench sometimes.
Klopp clearly has a plan for Henderson, having pushed for a new long-term deal for the captain back in 2021. That runs until 2025, and if Liverpool are to get value from the last two seasons, a change of position could be lures. – one that the arrival of Mac Allister and Szoboszlai could unlock.
An original version of this article was first published on May 10.