There must always be a Stark in Winterfell and it’s also impossible to imagine Liverpool without Steven Gerrard. But fact of the matter is that Liverpool are better off without him in the lineup due to their new system and formation, and Jordan Henderson is filling in that role quite well.
Liverpool are six-for-six in matches Gerrard doesn’t play in this season – beating Manchester City, Southampton, Aston Villa, West Ham, Burnley and Swansea. They’ve also won with him on their recent impressive run which began a match after Brendan Rodgers introduced his new tactic, which is a three-back system that mostly works without a natural striker, but the return of Daniel Sturridge will result in changes.
The formation puts Alberto Moreno in a winger position or something of a wing back which suits his speed and talents well, while in recent matches it’s been Jordan Henderson pairing up with Joe Allen in the middle It was a forced change – Lucas was the defensive midfielder that began this run in the 3-4-3 or whatever it is you want to call it, but Allen, after being almost ruled out of the rotation, has done a very good, especially in the win over Manchester City.
A lot of praise has gone to Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian is in stunning form, making everyone wonder how come he cost only £8.5 million, especially when it’s compared with the prices Manchester United have paid for Juan Mata and Angel di Maria over the last 12 months. But there were plenty of questions regarding the prices Liverpool paid for Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana and others. Most of their signings over the summer don’t seem like such a waste of money anymore (Henderson came much earlier).
But Henderson has been the best player in this change of form and shape. He is the captain now, and is hard working, relentless style is doing a lot better in the middle of the pitch than on the right (surprisingly, Liverpool don’t win their matches, even over the last two months, when Henderson is placed on the wing), but that’s something we knew about from last season.
Henderson suddenly finding it easy to be creative with fantastic goals (two in two matches, and stunning ones at that) combined with surprising vision and passing skills make it seem like Liverpool have a new Gerrard in the making. But Henderson is a different player, at least now. He isn’t the passer or the finisher Gerrard still is, but pressures players a lot better than Gerrard ever did. Gerrard is too slow and old to be useful in the current system. Possession, slower paced football? That’s the thing for him as he approaches his 35th birthday. That’s why he’s not playing as much anymore.
From an awkward, out of place, overpriced signing from Sunderland, Henderson has turned into the most important player in Rodgers’ plan. He’s not Gerrard’s heir, but he does seem to be good enough to finally break out of any sort of comparison, and possibly begin to form his own sort of legacy.