For over a decade, Steven Gerrard was Liverpool’s inspirational captain, leading them to the Champions League title in 2005, then almost singlehandedly winning the FA Cup a year later. It was always going to be a near-impossible task for the man chosen to replace him, but based on what we have seen so far, Jordan Henderson is not up for the job.
This season’s Capital One Cup Final saw Liverpool take Manchester City to penalties with Philippe Coutinho’s late equaliser. The Reds eventually lost out 3-1 on spot kicks, as Henderson failed to step up and take one. You would normally expect to see your captain take a penalty and set an example for their team mates, unless there are five takers who can be relied on to score. In the case of Coutinho and Lucas Leiva, there were certainly at least two players not keen on stepping up.
It seems unfair to compare Henderson to Gerrard, a man who must be considered one of the best captains in English football in recent years, but it was a fate he was always likely to face. There is no doubt that Gerrard would have been among the first to volunteer to take a penalty, and by the way James Milner was down to take the fifth spot kick, Henderson was never really looking to inspire his team.
The captaincy has done nothing to improve the standard of Henderson’s football on the pitch. He has often been outperformed by the opposition’s centre midfielders, and at other times his partner in midfield, Emre Can, who himself has been far from his best in recent weeks. He has rarely used his extra responsibilities as captain to inspire his team, and has instead been using it more to argue with the referee.
Though it is harsh on the 25-year-old to judge him on possibly Liverpool’s greatest ever player in Gerrard, but by any standards as captain, Henderson just simply hasn’t been good enough. Jurgen Klopp may find that the best way to improve his side’s fortunes is to cut his losses now and make the change from Henderson.