By his own admission, 2015/16 was far from Jordan Henderson’s best campaign in a Liverpool shirt—particularly following his assumption of captain’s duties last summer—but the England international remains an integral part of the Reds’ future success.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo‘s Neil Jones in May, Henderson described the previous nine months as “the hardest season of my career so far” but remained optimistic about returning to top form:

You have to go through them at times. You’re going to have injuries. Before that, I was quite lucky in that I didn’t really have any bad ones, and this season they’ve all come at once.

But hopefully I’ll be stronger for it. I’ve come through it, and hopefully I can stay injury free and get back to my best.

It’s been a difficult season, but hopefully—touch wood—I can concentrate on playing football now, stay injury free and just get back to playing the way I know I can.

Henderson’s stock certainly dropped among Liverpool supporters throughout 2015/16, with fellow midfielder Emre Can rising to the fore following Jurgen Klopp’s appointment as manager in October.

But with the 48-year-old responding to speculation linking Henderson with a move to Tottenham Hotspur in April by telling reporters, including the Echo‘s James Pearce, that he is “a very important player for us,” it is likely the former Sunderland man will remain on Merseyside for the foreseeable future.

This should be seen as a positive, as an improving Henderson is central to Liverpool’s prospects under Klopp—as he is, in many ways, an ideal midfield option for the German.


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“It was going to take somebody who is going to be strong-willed and has a strong mentality, but is also a wonderful role model,” former Reds manager Brendan Rodgers told the club’s official website in July 2015, when announcing Henderson as full-time successor to Steven Gerrard as Liverpool captain.

The Ulsterman later add that “he’s an outstanding player and I think you’ll see him really blossom with that captaincy,” underlining his faith but unfortunately also adding to the pressure of the armband.


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Henderson started the season in reasonable form, deployed in a more reserved midfield role alongside summer signing and new vice-captain James Milner, providing energy in the engine room in 1-0 victories over Stoke City and Bournemouth—laying on Christian Benteke’s winner in the latter.

But withdrawn after 52 minutes against the Cherries, Henderson’s injury problems began, and replacing him with Can at Anfield that evening, Rodgers set the tone for his captain’s campaign.

Henderson’s next appearance came over three months later, coming on as a second-half substitute in November’s 1-0 win at home to Swansea City, with Klopp telling the club’s official website of his delight at being able to call upon the midfielder and fellow long-term absentee, Daniel Sturridge.

Klopp described their availability as “good news for the big Liverpool family,” accentuating Henderson’s role at the core of this Liverpool squad.


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With a goal and an assist in his next league outing, December’s 2-2 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion, Henderson set in motion a run of hit-and-miss form that extended to his knee injury in the Reds’ 1-1 UEFA Europa League quarter-final draw away to Borussia Dortmund; there were excellent performances, such as in January’s 3-3 stalemate against Arsenal in the league, but there were also a smattering of poor displays.

Though he was able to recover from this second injury to take a place on the substitutes’ bench against Sevilla in the Europa League final, that he remained unused accentuated his marginal role under Klopp in 2015/16.

Instead, Can had emerged as Klopp’s midfield general, and now as the Liverpool manager plots for summer additions, the first name to remain on his teamsheet could well be his young compatriot.


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According to the Express‘ Paul Joyce, Klopp has a pair of talented midfielders on his transfer radar ahead of 2015/16, with at least one addition looking likely.

“Klopp is still hoping to plunder his Germany connections by persuading midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud to join from Borussia Monchengladbach. Borussia Dortmund are also interested,” Joyce claims.

“Dahoud is Liverpool’s first choice to boost their midfield, ahead of Poland international Piotr Zielinski.”

Twenty-year-old Syrian-born midfielder Dahoud enjoyed an exceptional season with Gladbach in 2015/16, forming a solid two-man core alongside new Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka, scoring five goals and laying on a further nine in 32 Bundesliga appearances.


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Meanwhile, Zielinski’s two seasons on loan with Empoli provided the Udinese midfielder with an invaluable taste of top-flight football, honing his talents as a creative, box-to-box option alongside the likes of Riccardo Saponara and Massimo Maccarone.

Whether Liverpool sign Dahoud or Zielinski, it is likely that Henderson’s current team-mate, Joe Allen, will leave the club.

As reported by the Press Association (h/t This is Anfield), the Wales international hinted while on duty with Chris Coleman’s squad that Klopp’s “pre-season plans” and summer “acquisitions” would play a major factor in making a decision over his future.

This would leave Klopp without one of his more seasoned midfielders, despite Allen himself being only 26, and a midfield including Can (22) and either of Dahoud (20) or Zielinski (22) runs the risk of being undercut by inexperience—as Can proved through his drop-off in the second half of the Europa League final.


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Henderson will turn 26 in June, and while he doesn’t boast the experience of his predecessor, he will be entering his fifth season on Merseyside, and having battled back from the brink after being offered to Fulham by Rodgers in 2012, his time with the Reds so far has been hugely formative.


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The midfielder has endured title heartbreak in 2013/14, along with disappointment in the FA Cup final in 2012 and 2015’s Capital One Cup final, but he has also drawn vital experience from success in the latter competition in 2012 and played a key role in lifting Liverpool to a new plateau during their title push.

It was Henderson’s absence, suspended following a red card in the Reds’ 3-2 win away to Manchester City in the closing months of 2013/14, that arguably played the biggest part in Liverpool’s demise that season.

In 2013/14, and the following campaign, Henderson showcased his prowess as a strong, all-round midfielder, boasting relentless energy, an intelligent tactical mind and a swiftly progressing creative streak, which led to 10 assists in the Premier League in 2014/15.


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In this regard, 2015/16 can be considered something of an anomaly in Henderson’s development, largely hampered by serious injuries to his foot and his knee.

To cast aside a midfielder with the exact qualities required in his midfield would be an oversight by Klopp, regardless of who is signed this summer.

Providing he return from the European Championship without injury, and he is eased back into action by Klopp during pre-season, Henderson can reach the heights promised in 2013/14 and 2014/15 as he heads into the new campaign.

 

Statistics via Transfermarkt.co.uk.

Follow @jacklusby_



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