How the Reds could adapt to the loss of Henderson

With a tired, late lunge on Samir Nasri resulting in a deserved red card, Jordan Henderson presented his manager and his team with a difficult dilemma for the next three crucial games in the league title chase. The England midfielder has been in fine form for the club this year; with more appearances than any other player, Henderson has also had a highly respectable return of 5 goals and 6 assists this season. What the statistics do not show is his tireless work rate for the team and the extra attacking dimension he provides with his excellently-timed runs from deep. His suspension, coupled with the injury to Daniel Sturridge, means that the Reds may well have a testing time of it in the next few games. Fans should not be too gloomy, however, as there are a number of options for Brendan Rodgers to use in his pursuit of a first title for 24 years.

Joe Allen

How the Reds could adapt to the loss of Henderson

How the Reds could adapt to the loss of Henderson

The first option available is perhaps the most simple – a straight swap with Allen coming in to play alongside Coutinho in central midfield. The diminutive Welshman has been a willing and able deputy so far this season, and represents perhaps the best fit when seeking to replace Henderson’s energy and drive. Having won many plaudits for his performances at Swansea and the first half of last season, Allen has again shown flashes of his best form – most notably away to Tottenham and Manchester City. His intelligence in possession of the ball and his ability to turn defence into attack by driving forward up the pitch mean Allen is a valuable foil to the more creative talents of Coutinho. He also provides a level of tactical flexibility, being capable of performing a number of different roles in the central third of the pitch, from a deep-lying defensive player to an attack-minded number ten. A 4-3-3 formation with Moses or Aspas coming in to replace Sturridge would give the Reds a little more protection on the flanks than the diamond that has been used in recent matches, and allows Sterling and Suarez to continue their excellent link-up play. It remains to be seen, however, if Rodgers is willing to trust the somewhat patchy form of Moses or Aspas in a game which could have such huge ramifications for the league title.

Lucas and Allen

Should the manager wish to keep the diamond shape which has served the team well over the last couple of matches, he could take the option of playing Lucas and Allen together ahead of Gerrard as the ‘sides’ of the diamond. Whilst a little short of pace, Lucas’ intelligent positioning and eye for a pass (as demonstrated by the penalty Flanagan won against West Ham) mean he would be a great addition to the side both defensively and in attack. Similarly, this system would allow Coutinho full run of his creative talents in his favoured role as the trequartista, and has the added benefit of pushing Sterling further forward to make the most of his current superb form. The experience of a player of Lucas’ calibre could well prove to be invaluable at this stage of the season, and may be another factor in persuading Rodgers to follow this system. It does seem to be the most likely option at this time. However, the diamond formation does have weaknesses; it means a very heavy workload for both full-backs, and Norwich’s ability from out wide in Snodgrass and Hoolahan should not be underestimated. Should prove to be a problem during the game, Coutinho and Sterling are likely to shift wide to make a 4-3-3 and provide cover on the flanks.

Stuck in the middle with  How the Reds could adapt to the loss of Henderson

How the Reds could adapt to the loss of Henderson

Lucas and Gerrard

The final option available to Rodgers would be to reprise the 4-2-3-1 formation that Liverpool played for large parts of last season, with Lucas and Gerrard sitting deep behind Coutinho at number ten and Sterling and Moses on the flanks. Whilst an effective method of bringing Coutinho into the game, last season showed time and again that Lucas and Gerrard playing alongside each other was a pairing with a worrying lack of pace. It is therefore unlikely that Rodgers would choose to alter his formation in such a drastic way, and risk pushing the captain out of the defensive position he has played so well this season.


Provided Liverpool can focus entirely on the Norwich game, the loss of Henderson should not be such a terrible blow to the team’s title hopes. Allen and Lucas between them are capable of providing the extra dimension that Henderson brings to Liverpool’s game, whilst Suarez is up against the perfect team to end his mini-drought. With the quality in the squad, the Reds ought to have too much for a relegation-threatened Norwich team whose only real hope is to try and out-score the league’s top scorers. Henderson’s influence may well be more missed against the likes of Chelsea and Crystal Palace, but for the next game at least his midfield colleagues should be good enough to cover.

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About The Author

Toby Podmore

is a Liverpool-supporting cuckoo from a rugby-mad South African nest in north London, Toby Podmore was brought to Liverpool football club through a soft spot for Michael Owen. With that well and truly gone, his love for the club has remained with him from France to the UK and back again. He now spends his time reading, writing and watching the club from Belfast.

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