Slake’s Soliloquy: Henderson, From Average to Underrated


Jordan Henderson has always been considered an average English footballer. His first two years at Liverpool cemented this perception of him as that. Not even a near-excellent 2013/2014 could change that in the minds of many. After all, it has become accepted opinion that Luis Suarez, that season, simply made everyone around him better. Truthfully, that is a valid thought. And you can understand it, considering the manner in which Liverpool fell apart after his departure; the way the form of others dipped all the way to Brendan Rodgers’ ultimate demise at the club.

This simply made it easier for Jordan’s steady growth to go unnoticed. From rejecting a move to Fulham in 2012 to becoming vice captain two years later to becoming captain and guaranteed starter by 2016, there is something astonishing about Jordan’s steady progress at Liverpool. You can be forgiven for not seeing it, considering how unremarkable he looks while going about his job on the field.

Responsibility has transformed Henderson into a far better player than the one who looked lost in his first two years at Liverpool. The minute Henderson started having leadership responsibilities on and off the pitch, his football started changing and his growth truly began. He went from a lost player on the pitch to one of the more consistent performers, helping the forwards to effectively do their jobs. What is most evident about this change is that Jordan worked on himself; he went back to getting the basics right – pass, move, pass, move, charge and intercept, tackle, pass, move, pass.


Football is really about the basics. If you can get the basics right, you will look good. A great man once said; “once you have a good enough first touch and the ability to pass, you are already an above-average footballer”.

Passing has been the most improved quality for Henderson in recent seasons. In 2011/2012, he attempted 1492 passes, in 2012/2013, he attempted only 990 passes . Contrast that with 2013/2014 when he attempted 2026 passes, 2014/2015 when he attempted 2181 passes. Despite playing just 17 games because of injuries in 2015/2016, he still attempted 939 passes. To put this into proper context;

2011/2012 – 40.3 passes per game.
2012/2013 – 33 passes per game.
2013/2014 – 57.9 passes per game.
2014/2015 – 59 passes per game.
2015/2016 – 55.2 passes per game.

What this clearly shows, which we see week in week out, is that Jordan has increasingly become more involved in Liverpool’s play. He wants the ball more, he is moving better and doing much more. From being a spectator on the field, he is now one of the key actors.

The passing accuracy has been up and down, with him willing to take more risks and get more involved. That notwithstanding, it has still been at a steady level above 82%, bar 2015/2016.

This season, however, Jordan Henderson has truly come into his own. He has already attempted 1600+ passes this season (the best tally in the league – 300+ passes more than the next person), more than his entire tally in 2011/2012 in just under 1000 less minutes.

He is averaging around 87 passes per game, a whopping 29+ passes/game more than his best ever tally in *that* 2013/2014 season (where Suarez is said to have made everyone around him so much better).

His passing accuracy is also significantly higher at 87%. The crazy part is that he was the first player in the league to complete over 1000 passes, and the only one for a while; he has completed a whopping 1300+ passes, the highest in the league till date, up there with the best in Europe.

Here’s the most interesting thing; Henderson isn’t exactly passing safe. His average pass length is 20m! Of the top 40 passers in the league this season, no midfielder has averaged a longer pass distance. 64% of Henderson’s passes are forward passes too.


Henderson has become very complete this season. Orchestrating, conducting and defending. The evidence is in the fact he has won the second highest number of tackles in the league (57) and made 33 interceptions as well (highest made by any Liverpool player this season). In other words, he is leading the league in passes attempted (above the rest by a wide margin), passes completed (by a wide margin), forward passes, backward passes (yes, that too), is second for tackles won in the league while making 1.74 interceptions per game. That is as complete as it gets.

It gets more interesting. Here is some insight from @reverse_ball

Henderson isn’t a super player or anything like that. However, he has become a fine player often overlooked because of the perception of him being thoroughly average, no thanks to his first two years at Liverpool. Since that time, he has grown into a far better player. He has been constantly overlooked for years, but this season, he is finally moving to a new level where he really cannot go unnoticed for long. He has probably been the best midfielder in the league; a key reason why Liverpool are where they are on the table.

Put aside your previous perception as well as any narratives when you watch Jordan now. Look at how he moves, what he does, how often recovers balls, his command of his zone. Look at the work he does, you might not like how he jogs (ha!) but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing what he does on the field.

Jordan Henderson is a better player than you think he is. It’s time to stop underrating him, he is no longer an average footballer.

Article by Clinton McDubus (@cerebrone)