Liverpool’s bright start to their Premier League campaign has been fostered by multiple factors.
A well-oiled midfield trio, dynamism and pace in attack and the sheer willingness to hunt opponents down are a fair few. Yet there exist certain qualms about the Reds’ inability to shut out their counterparts. In seven league games, Liverpool have let in ten goals, the leakiest defence in the top half of the table and for a side that aspires to break expectations this season by challenging for the title, that is simply not good enough.
While most of the blame has been flung the way of the club’s defenders, there is an argument favouring the lack of a solid defensive midfielder. In today’s game, a player occupying that position is expected to fulfil a string of responsibilities. Not only is he required to screen the back line and nullify the threat of any incoming attacks, he is also entitled to the job of building a move from the back. N’Golo Kante undertook those tasks at Leicester City last season and given how impeccably he did it, there is a growing feeling Liverpool might need someone of that calibre to complete the final piece of what hopefully will be, a title-winning jigsaw.
All that said and done, it must be remembered that the effectiveness of positional play is also predicated on the way the team lines up. Klopp’s rendition of an attacking 4-3-3 formation brings out the industrious best in his squad, not to mention the philosophy he propagates. What he essentially brings to the table by asking his players to press opponents high up the pitch is aggressive defending. Each and every outfield player is involved in the same and that renders the role of a proper holding midfielder a little less important.
So far this season, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has played the deepest, as compared to his midfield companions Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum. His disciplinary issues aside, Henderson’s numbers have been staggering. With 19 tackles and 508 successful passes, the Englishman has pipped fellow defensive-midfielders Kante and Tottenham Hotspur man-mountain Victor Wanyama. With an impressive 13 interceptions to add to that, Henderson has proved his worth playing as what many would infer to be a quarterback. These statistics are indicative of the role he has played for his team thus far and the system Klopp has deployed in his run of four consecutive Premier League victories.
To say Henderson is the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League may seem a tad premature, given the league is only seven weeks old. His conduct has been exemplary though and he seems to have understood and acclimatized to his manager’s vision and style quite splendidly. Age is on his side and by the looks of things, Liverpool may not need anyone to replace him for the time being. The wheels have well and truly been set in motion.