Liverpool fans have been worried that with Fabinho and Naby Keita’s acquisitions, skipper Jordan Henderson may be warming the bench in the coming season but Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has allayed those fears even as he revealed that the Englishman may have to adjust his game a fair bit.
Keita became the club’s record buy when the Reds agreed to a €60 million transfer last year, but to the deal’s unique structrue, the Guinean only arrived in the summer of 2018 to bolster their midfield.
And Liverpool’s business wasn’t done there as they also acquired Fabinho from Monaco for a cool €45 million to become the Premier League’s biggest spenders in the summer transfer window.
“Hendo is so important to us, not only as a player but also as a person and as a leader,” Klopp told the Liverpool Echo.
Along with the aforementioned signings, Liverpool have Henderson, James Milner, Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum competing for the three midfield spots in Klopp’s favoured 4-3-3 system.
“You need these players like Hendo and Millie (James Milner) to help create a special spirit in the squad, otherwise it doesn’t work.”
The dynamic Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in theory, is another contender but considering he’s recovering from a serious knee injury, will likely not be in action till the end of the 2018/19 season at the earliest.
Henderson played a crucial role in England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but his club manager asserted that he didn’t need to see the midfielder’s displays in Russia to be convinced of his qualities.
“There are no doubts about Hendo. I didn’t need the final proof in and around the World Cup or in last season.”
“He had to learn kind of a new position for him. I still remember the Burnley game (at Turf Moor in August 2016) when we lost 2-0 with 80 per cent possession.”
Henderson had a difficult start to life as a Liverpool player when he joined the club in 2011 from Sunderland, but for the past few seasons has transformed into a dependable option in the middle of the pitch.
“Hendo for sure was involved in the first goal with a press ball that he didn’t win. One of the main things I was asked about after the game was: ‘Can he really play as the No.6?’ I said: ‘Yes, he can and he will.’ He had to learn and he had to improve and that’s exactly what he did.”
“He can still play as the eight or we could play some games with a double six, Fabinho could play the eight or whatever, that’s all possible,” Klopp stated as he hinted at a flexible formation for the 2018/19 season.
When Oxlade-Chamberlain is back to full fitness, the situation may change dramatically as toward’s the end of last season, he was Liverpool’s best option in midfield by far.
“If things were fixed with just one line-up and all the others were only needed when the rest are ill that would be the wrong way and we’d have no chance.”
Henderson, who reported back for duty on Sunday following his exertions for England at the World Cup, is not expected to start Liverpool’s Premier League 2018/19 Premier League season opener against West Ham United on August 12.