12 June 2011

Jordan Henderson: Midfield Statistics

Naturally, after asking who Jordan Henderson is, any Liverpool supporter (or your curious football fan) would ask what this English youngster could offer to Liverpool's midfield. Unsurprisingly, no matter how many times   people are reminded of the futileness of labeling a young player as the next [insert name of successful/legendary player], comparisons continue to be made amongst fans between Henderson and the current crop of players at Liverpool. It's human nature and unavoidable I suppose. So, here we go...

Being English, comparisons were made with Stevie Gerrard primarily because of his all-round energetic play and athleticism. But then, it became clear that as Henderson didn't contribute as much in terms of assists and goals (compared to an average Gerrard season), that comparison was thrown out the window.

In the 2010/2011 season, according to Guardian Chalkboard statistics Jordan Henderson made 4 assists in the League.

So, if he isn't a Gerarrd-type midfielder, he must be a midfielder of the volante variety, like Liverpool's Player of the Season, Lucas Leiva or even Javier Mascherano. Again, I had this assumption checked to the statistics and it reveals that Henderson, at an average of 4 tackles per 90 minutes played falls well behind in terms of what is required as a defensive midfielder. OK, maybe basing Henderson's effectiveness in terms of tackles is a little bit unfair as not all defensive midfield players actually need to be an all-tackling player to do his job. Some good positioning and vital interceptions can be as important to one's team as well. But again, 74 interceptions amassed in the league last season don't seem all too impressive, for a defensive midfielder that is.

Now that the assumption that Henderson will contribute defensively in midfield has been debunked, comparisons began to be made with Liverpool's more creative players. There was some talk that Henderson could have the potential to be a pass-master like fan favourite, Xabi Alonso but I sincerely believe that those sort of comparisons could be a bit premature and unfair on both players. At a completion pass rate of 74%, Henderson falls well short of even Lucas' average last season (which exceeds 80%) but one could also argue that it is the quality and not the quantity that matters. Admittedly, this is very true and although hard to pin down with numbers and statistics alone, a quick look at the chalkboards reveals that the majority of Henderson's passing is in the final third of the pitch and bears a resemblance to former Liverpool target, Charlie Adam.

On average, Henderson made 52 passes per game. Not very far off the Liverpool average for midfield players.

Although the pattern of passing can be swayed due to the fact that Henderson was deployed as a right-sided attacking midfielder, it seems quite obvious now why a player of Henderson's quality was acquired. It appears to me that Henderson would be slot in as a link player to shore-up the current crop of players which, one could argue consist of only Maxi Rodriguez and Raul Meireles. And, with all but one game played in the league last season, one could also say that Henderson represents a very dependable option.

Of course, the statistics only tell half the story and more importantly are statistics for the player's time at Sunderland, not Liverpool. What is clear is that Henderson is very much a raw talent that has bags of potential. Who knows what more he can offer when he plays with quality players around him. The way things are going this close season, it looks like there'll be more of those to come in the coming months.

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