Liverpool are beginning to look like the real deal following an incredible year of progress in 2018 but there remains one weak link in the side restricting their progress, namely Jordan Henderson.
The captain of any football team should be a symbol of exemplary determination, a figure who commands unconditional respect among the fanbase and within the squad, a player who the side depend on and require to reach their supreme best.
Jordan Henderson is the player who dons the prestigious captains armband at Liverpool, when he is selected in the starting eleven that is, but he seldom manages to encapsulate the aforementioned qualities.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s damning indictment of Henderson’s running style, which he revealed in his 2013 autobiography, holds a crushing weight of validity more than five years on.
Henderson, for all his quality, is far from a top player and with a figurehead of Virgil Van Dijk’s reputation residing within the squad his credentials to retain the captaincy are rapidly diminishing at Anfield.
And when you consider the breadth of midfield options Klopp has at his disposal, he may be wise to offer him a way out of the club in the summer transfer window.
Naturally the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a factor worth considering for Liverpool, but the progress Marko Grujic made in 2018 with both Cardiff City and Hertha Berlin suggests the Serbia international could slot into Henderson’s position in a progressive-minded decision from Klopp.
Grujic has made just seven appearances at Hertha Berlin this season, with injury problems limiting his involvement thus far, but his brief time on the pitch has squeezed a sensational superlative out of head coach Pal Dardai (via Bundesliga.com).
“I’ve been at Hertha for 22 years,” said the 42-year-old at his press conference after the Frankfurt win. “This isn’t meant as an insult to anyone else, but Marko is by far the best midfielder I’ve seen in my time at the club.”
As far as compliments go they don’t get much more emphatic, and it’s one which hints it would be premature to write Grujic off as a future mainstay in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield.
Like Henderson, Gujic is naturally suited to a box-to-box midfield role, where is allowed the freedom to bully opponents with his physical prowess and stride forwards in an elusive effort to make a decisive impact in and around the 18-yard-box.
Sure, Grujic lacks Premier League experience and he is far from the complete package, but with an array of talented midfielders to learn from in the shape of Naby Keita, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Oxalde-Chamberlain he is bound to improve at an exponential rate.
If Klopp fails to make a brave decision by promoting the 6’3″ talent to the first-team next season, potentially at Henderson’s expense, then Liverpool could let a rare gem slip through the net when his contract expires in June.
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