Jordan Henderson could become Liverpool’s new James Milner next season, with Trent Alexander-Arnold in need of a support act as Jürgen Klopp’s inverted full-back.
Jürgen Klopp will lose his jack of all trades this summer. For the past eight years, he’s benefited from the remarkable services of a certain James Milner, who has occupied a number of different positions at Anfield, establishing himself as one of the most versatile performers on the continent.
The Reds legend has played as a left-back and as a right-back for Liverpool since joining in 2015, while also occupying a whole host of different midfield roles. He will leave Merseyside once his contract expires in the coming weeks, but Klopp might already have his successor within the ranks.
Jordan Henderson has been a prominent figure for Liverpool over the past decade, sporting the captain’s armband as the Reds secured memorable Premier League and Champions League titles just a few years ago. Like Milner, he will go down as a true great, but he will turn 33 years old later this month.
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Henderson’s commitment to the cause is virtually unrivalled, but he can no longer play every single game for Liverpool and with Klopp exploring transfer deals for midfielders such as Alexis Mac Allister, Mason Mount and Ryan Gravenberch to name but a few, a new role could open up for the Englishman.
Dating back to April, Henderson has been deployed as an advanced number eight of sorts. Since Klopp adopted his new-look 3-2-5 shape, he’s required his two number eights to effectively behave like number 10s whenever Liverpool has possession, with Curtis Jones flourishing on the left side of the field.
The Reds skipper, by contrast, has given his all but doesn’t look like as much of a seamless fit on the right side. It is reasonable to suggest that based on his skill set, he would perhaps be better suited to playing in Fabinho’s position whenever the Brazilian international requires a rest.
Henderson can still be presented with a fair amount of minutes on the field for Liverpool, but he might have to become accustomed to playing as a support act, just like Milner did. Whenever Klopp needed to call upon the latter to do a job for him, he would step up and deliver as a manager’s dream.
Upon inspection of the Liverpool squad right now, Henderson could fill a very important squad void next term. The architect of Klopp’s new 3-2-5 system is Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is a right-back but now makes inverted movements into the center of the pitch whenever his team has possession under control.
The Scouse defender has evolved into a modern inverted full-back over the last few months, but as a consequence of his importance to the 3-2-5 formation, Klopp has been forced to play him without a break. Alexander-Arnold has played every single minute of action across Liverpool’s last 10 games, but that will not be able to continue next season.
Klopp simply doesn’t have anybody else who can do what Alexander-Arnold does. Milner is one of the few who has experience as a midfielder and as a full-back, but he is leaving the club this summer. It remains to be seen how Klopp will navigate the problem, but Henderson could be an unorthodox solution.
He doesn’t yet have experience as a full-back under his belt, but he has comparable qualities to Milner and his tactical intelligence is mature considering he’s been working under Klopp since the German was first appointed at Anfield back in 2015. Henderson is a different sort of player to Alexander-Arnold but nevertheless, he does have applicable skills based on the demands of the inverted full-back role.
Ultimately, as pre-season approaches, Klopp could have a tactical experiment to test with his captain behind the scenes.