Liverpool have significant Jordan Henderson issue Jurgen Klopp must fix to win more titles

For the first real time under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool are in crisis. Bereft of confident, there is an air of malaise around Anfield and they have not won any of their past five Premier League matches, failing to score in any of the last four.

Their latest low came against Burnley on Thursday as the Reds crashed their first home loss in the league in 1,369 days. The Clarets ended a 68-game unbeaten run by this Liverpool team, a club record and the second longest in English top-flight history behind Chelsea’s 86-match stretch, stretching back to April 2017.

And while the feeling of defeat at Anfield in the league was an unfamiliar one for many of those players on the pitch, there was a familiarity about the fact Liverpool lost without Jordan Henderson on the field.

Of Liverpool’s six Premier League defeats over the past 18 months, three of which have come this season and three last, captain Henderson has missed four and was at centre-back for another, as Opta’s Michael Reid notes on Twitter.

The other was the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City at the Etihad in July, Liverpool’s first match since being crowned champions of England, with the visitors subdued after going 1-0 down and finding themselves 3-0 down by half-time.

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Take Henderson out of the Liverpool midfield and the difference in results is drastic. The Reds’ win ratio with the captain playing since the start of the 2019-20 season reads 76 per cent. Without him? That number drops to 58 per cent.

Klopp’s win ratio across all competitions since arriving at Anfield is 59.5 per cent but over the past three campaigns, Liverpool’s standards have been exceptionally high.

Of 95 games since the start of the 2018-19 season, they have won 71, two more than City across the same period.

Five of their seven losses since then have come without Henderson playing in midfield and the only other two were both away at City, with a trip to the Etihad as formidable an away match as any other in the Premier League calendar.

Under Klopp overall, Liverpool win 66 per cent of their matches with Henderson in the team, a ratio that drops to 55 per cent without him. Across a season, that is the difference between winning 25 games and winning 20.

Manchester United and Chelsea, both last term, are the only teams without at least 21 victories from 38 games (they managed 18 and 20 respectively) to make it into the top four since the 2015-16 season.

Were Henderson to suffer a long-term injury this season, it is plausible to fear for their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, a startling statement given they were title favourites as recently as mid-December.

Of course, Liverpool’s miserable run of recent form preceded Henderson’s injury but with him in the team, and especially in midfield, they are simply far more likely to pick up points.

The difference in performance is notable when the skipper is either out of the side altogether or is pulled back into central defence.

Liverpool lack the same drive and tempo and the balance in midfield simply is not the same, either in attack or defence.

Fabinho playing in the holding role, rather than in central defence, also makes a sizeable difference but no-one is as important as Henderson as the team’s record without him shows.

With Henderson prone to the odd niggle and having turned 30 back in June, it is a problem Liverpool really cannot afford to linger much longer.

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How Klopp fixes the issue is not entirely clear, as it is not as if Liverpool are shy of leaders without Henderson on the pitch, but the Reds will be acutely aware of the drop-off in performances and results in the absence of their skipper.

If they want to win more Premier Leagues and Champions Leagues in the years to come, they must figure out how to ease how reliant they are on having Henderson start in central midfield.

Liverpool’s six Premier League defeats since start of 2019-20 season

Watford (A) – No Henderson

Man City (A) – Henderson plays in midfield

Arsenal (A) – No Henderson

Aston Villa (A) – No Henderson

Southampton (A) – Henderson plays CB

Burnley (H) – No Henderson

Liverpool’s Premier League win ratios with/without Henderson

Since his Liverpool debut: 60% with, 45% without

Under Jurgenn Klopp: 66% with, 55% without

Since start of last season: 76% with, 58% without

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