John Gibbons: There’s more to hectic Hendo than just legs

The Liverpool midfielder has been terrifying defences in a more advanced role of late and our Reds-loving writer is more than impressed with him.


Greetings from sunny Porto! We were warned of rain and clouds by the weather forecast, just like we got last year, but instead have arrived to blue skies and sunshine. Which is most welcome as it seems Porto is actually really nice and there is much more to it than the bar downstairs from our hotel, that we only moved last time after two days to go to the game.

In my defence, it proper lashed down.

But, this year I’ve wandered the streets, crossed over the slightly scary bridge and bought one of those little egg custard things. Generally, I’ve had a lovely time and now I’m in my hotel room writing this because I’m a slave to content.

Although I’m sure you don’t feel too sorry for me. I’m sure I am only an hour or so away from a Super Bock or two…

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How could you feel sorry for a Liverpool fan at the moment anyway?

Top of the league and in Portugal in a great position to qualify for the Champions League final – again. A football team to watch that can be exhilarating one minute and resolute the next. Full of tough, skilful lads and who love whacking it in the goal.

They might be my favourite Liverpool team I’ve watched.

Part of what has made them so scintillating going forward the last few weeks has been Jordan Henderson, which is a sentence not many people have been saying over the last couple of years.

It seems at some point a fortnight ago Jordan had a word with Jurgen Klopp and said he used to be quite decent a bit further forward, so Jurgen has thought “well worth a go I suppose” and it’s all gone brilliantly. Football is a very simple game sometimes, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t say the Henderson experiment as a defensive midfielder completed failed, nor that we won’t see it again at some point, but the position does seem to limit some of his talents. Namely, running really fast at the goal. It’s a much-underrated tactic in football, I’m surprised more people don’t try it and Henderson does it really well.

Against Southampton he came off the bench and scored from running really fast at the goal and a well-timed pass to him as he was doing so. Against Chelsea the ball broke to him as he was running really fast at the goal and he was able to dink the ball to Sadio Mane to score.

I believe more sophisticated football writers than me call them “well-timed bursts into the box” or “third man running”, but I’m not sure about any of that.

I think if you just run really fast at the goal enough times something will break for you eventually.

Didn’t Frank Lampard make a career out of it?

The benefit is defences don’t expect it as much and don’t like the unpredictability. They have the forward they are marking and the defensive shape that hopefully allows them to nullify Liverpool, but then suddenly Jordan Henderson is there, all 6 foot 1 with his mad gait running into spaces they hadn’t accounted for. It leads to panic and opportunity.

I don’t want to limit Henderson’s contribution to sound like a horse who can kick it.

We saw against Porto and his lovely ball in the build-up to Firmino’s goal that he can add guile to his athleticism. I just think it is the athleticism that sets him apart from the many footballers who are nice passers of the ball.

He’s good at doing what set defences hate and Liverpool are wise to be using it as a tactic at this stage of the season. Yet another thing for teams facing Liverpool to worry about – as if they didn’t have enough already.

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