Henderson is the story, not Gerrard by Richard Lunt
This is the one for me, the game where we can put right what once went wrong.
Only Jordan Henderson remains from the side that lost 2-0 to Chelsea in 2014. There is no relevance at all between that game and this one, no parallels that can be drawn. We aren’t top, the pressure is not on us. If anything City are where we were in that they hold the cards and they are expected to go on and win it.
As has been the case for Jordan Henderson since he’s been at Liverpool an unavoidable shadow lingers over him both on and off the pitch, the legacy of Steven Gerrard.
It’s clear the media want to play that angle and sadly it’s clear some of our “fans” will never accept Henderson. The reason is simple, he isn’t Steven Gerrard but Henderson certainly has no apologies to make and is focused on doing what sadly Stevie could not, lifting the Premier League trophy.
If you want a narrative, how about Henderson being able to actually play this time around and leading his team to three vital points?
Our captain has been superb in the past few games but more than that he’s been a brilliant number 6 throughout Klopp’s reign. Klopp alluded to the truth recently when he apologised to Henderson for making him play the 6. It has never been the case that Henderson couldn’t do more, he has been instructed to do less and the reason for that is because Klopp knows the sum is greater than its individual parts.
Since the moment Henderson refused to be shipped off to Fulham and instead stayed and fought for his place he has been instrumental for Liverpool and has every right to call himself the captain of Liverpool Football Club.
With Fabinho establishing himself as the 6 – that Liverpool have been missing outside of Henderson – this allows Klopp to have some fun and unleash Henderson on unsuspecting foe.
Playing a more suited box to box role, Henderson is able to dictate play higher up the field and without the pressure of knowing he must at all costs keep the ball safe. It also allows him to make runs, something that he couldn’t do as the holding player because there was no one to cover him.
Chelsea come to Anfield on a good run of form. Sarriball is starting to pay dividends. I said from the start of the season that if you give Sarri time and the players he wants he will get you results and I believe that.
I also believe with Chelsea’s off field issues; an absentee owner for political reasons and a transfer ban incoming that they are in trouble. Unless something drastic happens, Sarri will never get the chance to see out his project in the manner he would like and then there is the matter of Eden Hazard’s future.
The weakness of Sarriball is that they are over-reliant on Jorginho. Spurs and Arsenal both showed this season that if you show them out wide, they are less of a threat and aside from Jorginho they struggle with creativity in the centre of the park.
What is different in both of these games however was they did not have Higuain. He’s struggling to find his feet but this kind of limited pressure game against big opposition would surely be the time he’d want to make his mark and you can’t underestimate a striker of his quality.
You obviously of course can not underestimate Eden Hazard either. If Liverpool are positionally sound, I believe we have enough to stop Hazard. If however he’s left one on on, he is – along with Messi – the best dribbler on the planet.
Don’t leave him one on one is the obvious message here. Liverpool’s defence has been built on a team ethic all season, that won’t change in this game so hopefully we can keep him quiet enough.
It will be interesting to see how Klopp deals with Chelsea. I don’t see him man marking Jorginho, I think whoever the midfield two (as in ahead of Fabinho) are will take it upon themselves to make sure he never has a clean passing lane but I can’t see it being like Ramsey and Alli who both followed Jorginho around the pitch.
I think Klopp believes in the work rate and intelligence of his side to perform this task as a unit, just as they have all season against all opposition.
In terms of Chelsea’s weakness, they tend to overload the left hand side be it, Alonso or more likely Emerson going forward and given Salah is at his most dangerous in that exact area, if they get caught doing that at Anfield it could be a long day for them.
I think the back four and keeper pick themselves so it will be a question of if we go with Matip or Lovren. I think Matip but either way, I trust anyone in our side as long as Virgil Van Dijk is next to them and they have sufficient cover in front.
Midfield is the key and given what we’ve spoken about, I think Henderson is a shoe-in with Gini joining him. Keita has done well the last few games but he still dwells on the ball a little too much and Gini with a rest next to Hendo is a much more stable proposition. Once Keita settles and adjusts to the pace of the Premier League he can be a special player for Liverpool in the future.
Obviously Fabinho holds for them but when Fabinho goes forward, Hendo can cover and when he doesn’t Henderson is a great cover for Trent who along with Robbo will be looking to bomb up the wings as usual.
The front three again is obvious and picks itself. Watching Chelsea, they can be drawn out of position, at times quite easily, with clever centre-forward movement. Firmino is the most intelligent centre forward in the league and he should lead that back four a merry dance. Mane’s job will be to draw Azpilicueta and the centre-back to him to leave space out wide for Robbo. It’s hard to see Chelsea being able to cope with Liverpool’s play out wide and still have a genuine attacking threat of their own. That said, this is football and anything can and usually does happen.
Overall Chelsea are a side with a player who is capable of magic who is in form but he’s one man. If Jorginho is left to create in the centre, we’re in trouble but that aside it’s hard to see where Chelsea get enough going forward in comparison.
At Stamford Bridge those who watched the highlights will point to Sturridge rescuing Liverpool with a wonder goal; those who watched the match will wonder how Liverpool weren’t out of sight by half time given the number of chances they had as they got in behind Chelsea at will.
I predict an early goal for Liverpool to settle the nerves. I won’t say scores, I don’t feel comfortable as stupid as that sounds but I think Liverpool win and keep the pressure on City whatever the result happens to be earlier in the day.