On Tuesday, Jurgen Klopp’s men held Bayern Munich to a goalless draw at Anfield in the first leg of the round of 16 Champions League clash. The Reds showcased great defensive steel to prevent the Die Roten from scoring. One man who stood out was Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool captain has faced criticism this season for his performances, but Maryam Naz highlights his contributions that kept Liverpool in the tie.
Press, press, press
The English international spearheaded a ruthless Liverpool pressing unit that hunted down stray passes and sought to unsettle the Bayern back-four from the onset. Indeed, Henderson regained possession for the Reds in eight instances across the game. The most vital interception came in the first half when Serge Gnabry pounced on a misplaced pass, with the intention to turn and run into unmarked swathes of space. In stepped Henderson, brushing Gnabry off the ball, saving his fellow teammates from what could have been a goal-scoring chance.
Against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men on Sunday, the captain will need to emulate his pressing and become a thorn in the Red Devils’ side. While United may not be known for playing out from the back, they will instigate attacking opportunities through Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic – players known for dilly-dallying on the ball. Henderson will have the perfect opportunity to steal back possession in these moments.
Henderson made more passes (72) than Bayern’s Thiago Alcantara at Anfield. Impressive given Alcantara’s reputation for controlling the game. Not only did the 28-year-old rack up the numbers, but he also played delightful passes into the front three, chiefly Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian was unable to profit from a sumptuous pass straight over Bayern’s defence from Henderson in the second-half.
The Englishman is often critiqued for his lack of creativity and forward thinking in the midfield three. Yet his performance in big games this season, including Tuesday’s clash against Bayern, has refuted this. Henderson’s ability to take a backseat from the action has proved vital in nullifying attacking flair in the opposition’s midfield.
Against the likes of Pogba and Marcus Rashford, he will need to sit deep and break up possession in front of the back four. Henderson’s pressing and tackling will allow the likes of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum to make forward runs without any defensive constraints.
Such leadership and communication is exactly the kind of captaincy needed against tough opposition in a stadium like Old Trafford.
Follow Maryam on Twitter at @mnaz98