Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane may have provided both goals in the 2-0 win over Newcastle but in truth, Liverpool’s front three barely exceeded second gear at Anfield on Saturday compared to the impeccable standards they have set themselves this season. Rather, it was the engine room that had a decisive influence on the match.
While Newcastle’s middle foursome settled for simply containing Liverpool as much as possible by clogging up space and cutting out passing lanes, the Reds’ midfield truly imposed themselves on the opposition – providing a platform that the Magpies rarely breached on the counter-attack and that the Reds’ attacks were all spawned from.
That perhaps rings truest with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who burst through from midfield to supply Salah for the opening goal. But the 2-0 affair on Merseyside also highlighted what Jordan Henderson, an underrated and often maligned figure amongst Liverpool supporters despite donning the captain’s armband, truly brings to this side.
The England international’s influence in the holding role can be summarised as winning the ball back and making the right pass forward, but Saturday proved just how important that services is, even if it often comes across as simplistic in nature.
Henderson made the most interceptions and second-most tackles of any Liverpool player, while ranking third for touches of the ball and passes. That latter return of 100 is particularly significant; more than Oxlade-Chamberlain and Emre Can, it was Henderson fizzing balls forward to Liverpool’s attack on Saturday.
It maintained Liverpool’s rhythm and pressure on the opposition in a match where Newcastle tried to slow them down as much as possible, and Reds fans will appreciate how crucial that is for Jurgen Klopp’s side who have often come unstuck in these kinds of games against attritional and pragmatic-minded teams.
The spotlight is rarely placed on deep-lying midfielders, and Henderson’s form hasn’t always been so impressive this season, so perhaps it’s understandable that the 36-cap England man often escapes acknowledgement for what he brings to the team. But there has been plenty of scrutiny of the Liverpool skipper this too this season, so do you think Reds fans have unfairly criticised him throughout 2017/18? Let us know by voting below…