Premier League

How Jordan Henderson's performance in defence ensured Liverpool's 3-1 win over Tottenham

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was forced to move Jordan Henderson into defence after a late injury to Fabinho in Thursday's impressive victory over Tottenham.

 
10:57pm on Thursday 28th January 2021
By
Stefan Bienkowski

The main talking point ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night was the late injury to Fabinho.

Following long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and then a number of setbacks to Joel Matip, a last-minute injury to Jurgen Klopp’s trusted midfielder-turned-centre-back seemed like the last straw.

However, the Anfield boss had one final card to play: pull club captain Jordan Henderson back into defence. And fortunately for Klopp and his Liverpool side it seemed to work wonders.

Leading from behind

Although Tottenham threatened and looked like they’d be a real handful from the first whistle, when Heung-Min Son had the ball in the back of the net in the third minute for an offside goal, Liverpool quickly settled into their rhythm and began to dominate proceedings.

This was largely based around the midfield trio of James Milner, Gigi Wijnaldum and Thiago Alcantara in the middle of the pitch but it also involved Henderson stepping out from defence to offer an extra man when Liverpool really had Tottenham pinned back.

This was perhaps most obvious in the build up to the first goal, when Henderson received a simple pass but was able to quickly float the ball over the Tottenham defence to Sadio Mane, who then fired the ball across goal to the unmarked Roberto Firmino at the back post.

While Henderson would never be considered a viable alternative to Van Dijk in a defensive sense, his defence-splitting pass to set up the goal was exactly the kind of through ball that the Dutch international was renowned for.

It was that confidence with the ball at Henderson’s feet that seemed to galvanise Liverpool on and for the first time in months they looked like their old selves. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold bombed down each flank, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were clinical in front of goal and Liverpool dominated possession against a genuinely impressive opponent.

29 yrs - M, DM (C) - Chelsea
86
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1481
Played matches
17
0
1
Shots P90
0.24
Shots On target P90
0.06
Successful passing %
88%
Final third passes P90
14.10

Stepping into defence

As if Liverpool’s defensive issues couldn’t get any worse, Klopp was then forced to pull Matip off at half time and bring on the relatively inexperienced Nathaniel Phillips to play alongside Handerson in the centre of defence.

However, remarkably, the Liverpool captain and his junior partner put on a solid enough defensive performance to ensure their side not only won the game, but also scored three goals (one ruled out by VAR) in the second half.

Sure, Tottenham had to take goal scorer Harry Kane off at half time and they got their own goal in the second half, but the English striker had looked particularly quiet before he was taken off at half time and the host’s only goal came from a long strike from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

In a poor run of form and with a make-shift defence in place, Liverpool were there for the taking but Tottenham were ultimately the side that looked disheveled and entirely out of ideas. Three goals to Tottenham’s one were what one the game for Liverpool, but Henderson's impressive performance in defence undoubtedly helped.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool: Player Ratings, Match Stats, Player Stats

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