Jordan Henderson has shined in Liverpool’s midfield in recent seasons through his boundless energy, considerable talent and an undeniable work ethic. If James Milner meets expectations in his maiden campaign with the Reds, Liverpool might have formed a perfect match in the middle.
Henderson, 25, and Milner, 29, will anchor Liverpool’s midfield in 2015-16, barring injury. They’re two of the most durable and dependable performers in the Premier League, and Liverpool expects them to provide balance, industry, quality and leadership from the most important area in the field: central midfield.
Past and preseason displays suggest Henderson and Milner will thrive together. Both are technically and tactically good enough to play regularly for England’s national team, and their physical and mental attributes are simply immense. Combining those qualities could multiply the positive effects during good times and limit the drain on the team’s performance when one or both have an off-day.
Manager Brendan Rodgers scored a transfer market coup in signing Milner from Manchester City this summer as a free agent. Rodgers promised Milner regular playing time in central midfield and might have bigger things in store for the veteran, as many believe the Liverpool boss will elevate him to the role of vice-captain. Doing so will ease further the burden Henderson currently carries, as he enters his first season as Liverpool’s club captain.
LFC’s current midfield situation
There’s more to Liverpool’s midfield than the strength and stability Milner and Henderson provide. The Reds’ other midfield options offer versatility and unpredictability, both of which Rodgers can use to Liverpool’s advantage before and during games against opponents of all stripes.
Emre Can, 21, can provide a robust presence in front of the defense as a holding midfielder. Can, or expected deputy Lucas Leiva, often will free Henderson and Milner of some defensive responsibilities, giving them license to express themselves offensively and press high up the field when the opponent is in possession.
Joe Allen likely will play centrally when the others are out through injury. Rodgers retains full trust in Allen, but the Welshman faces the prospect of decreased playing time heading into his fourth season at Liverpool.
Liverpool has a wealth of attacking players, who can play centrally or cut inside effectively from wide areas. Philippe Coutinho and summer signing Roberto Firmino are expected to perform magic tricks behind the striker and provide ample service to the front-men. Adam Lallana will play a big role if he can avoid the injury bug, which hampered him last season in his maiden campaign with Liverpool.
Jordon Ibe, 19, and Lazar Markovic, 21, are the natural wingers in Liverpool’s squad. They’re expected to provide accurate crosses from wide areas and track back in defense with youthful willingness. If they continue to develop and contribute goals and assists to Liverpool’s cause — something both struggled to do in 2014-15 — the Reds will be in good shape in these positions.
Liverpool’s midfield contains a good level of quality and depth, but it remains to be seen how the Reds will stack up against teams with similar resources and ambition.
Coutinho, 23, must continue developing into a Premier League force, as is his current trajectory.
A lot will hinge on how quickly Firmino adapts to the club and pace of play in England. If he struggles early on, Liverpool will have to depend on Lallana, Ibe and Markovic to unlock defenses along with Coutinho. Most Reds would rather watch Firmino do that job in full flow.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@br_uk