The man who he took the armband from, Steven Gerrard, will be remembered as one of the club’s best ever players, with his loyalty and ability to deliver big moments being integral to his leadership.
Henderson is likely to soon add a Premier League crown to the Champions League trophy that the Reds secured last year and much like his predecessor, the midfield general has proved to be incredibly versatile having performed a variety of roles since moving to Anfield.
The 29 year-old, tactically, has been a dream for each of the bosses he’s worked under, particularly Jurgen Klopp.
When the German was appointed in 2015, Henderson had previously been used as a right winger by Kenny Dalglish as well as a box-to-box midfielder by Brendan Rodgers.
He seemed highly suited to Klopp in terms of his character, personality, professionalism and flexibility, but his role remained undecided.
As the Reds began to evolve, Henderson seemed to oust Emre Can in the battle for who would be the team’s lone holding midfielder.
Liverpool’s executed an intense brand of audacious, fast, daring football in the early years of Klopp’s tenure, whereby possession would constantly be in a state of flux.
Henderson’s role as the team’s no.6, rather than dictating from deep, was to ensure that threatening turnovers are prevented and second balls are dominated. His contributions were mostly defensive.
The aggression that the English midfielder exhibits alongside his physical strengths allowed him to perform well in the role – essentially acting a ball-winner while allowing his teammates to assume the spotlight.
However, things changed over the course of six pivotal months.
Liverpool lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League final, Can departed for Juventus, and Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker arrived for record-breaking fees alongside Fabinho.
Those three signings altered the way in which Klopp’s outfit performed. Rather than embracing complete chaos between both boxes for 90 minutes at a time, the Reds integrated controlling aspects to their game while ensuring that the intensity from before was retained.
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Alisson and Van Dijk oozed calmness, while Fabinho would later be described as a ‘lighthouse’ amongst mayhem by Klopp’s assistant, Pep Ljinders.
The Brazilian, though, is not quite as versatile as Henderson. He was suited solely to the holding midfield role, whereby he’d be encouraged to govern proceedings while also winning possession as frequently as the Liverpool captain did.
Henderson apparently recognised this and according to Klopp himself, asked to be deployed further forward, similarly to how he was deployed by Rodgers.
Below, his Premier League minutes per position as a starter since 2017 are pictured.
Defensively, his move into central midfield altered how he behaved. Henderson was free to press and harry using his energy and industry whereas before, he was largely tasked with overseeing before recovering loose balls and stopping counters.
His new activity can be captured visually, with the area of Henderson’s defensive actions in 2017/18 shown below.
As evidenced, Henderson occupied a large central area, but that has since changed.
This season, Henderson’s defensive activity is higher and wider with less time spent on the left of the pitch, as shown below.
The box-to-box midfielder from the past has seemingly returned, and that has also impacted his attacking involvement.
The England international hasn’t developed much of a reputation for his attacking traits, but he’s registered five Premier League assists this season – more than Jamie Vardy, Wilfried Zaha and James Maddison – even despite each of those playing more minutes.
His open-play shot-assist locations are pictured below, with a fair amount originating from deeper areas.
Henderson has showcased a competence, particularly this year, when making long passes over opposing defences. He and Van Dijk are the two main contributors for the Reds in that area, with an assist registered away to Bournemouth deriving from a situation of that nature.
Ultimately, he’s proved to be a very well-rounded footballer since being signed for around £16m nine years ago, and his positional journey might not be over.
It’s likely that his immediate future lies in central midfield given Fabinho’s presence as the holding player – who is three years younger – but perhaps with age, Henderson will become another James Milner of sorts by demonstrating a willingness to play wherever he’s needed, including as a backup full-back.
Regardless of where he ends up, he’s proved to be a remarkable investment both on and off the pitch.