Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson favourite to win PFA Player of Year

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The midfielder is now 4/5 to follow team-mates Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk and make it three successive years of the PFA handing the ultimate professional recognition to a Liverpool player.

Mentioning the England vice-captain in the same breath as Salah and Van Dijk emphasises just how vital he has become in the engine room of Jurgen Klopp’s seemingly unstoppable juggernaut as it hurtles towards a first league title since 1990.

Some would argue that he has always been the beating heart of a side that has reached successive Champions League finals, winning one, and narrowly missed out to Manchester City in last season’s Premier League title race despite amassing a staggering 97 points.

But there has been an undeniable change in the 29-year-old’s role that has made him more noticeable – and indispensable – a change that can be pinpointed to April of last year, when Henderson explained his more attacking role following a 2-0 Champions League win over Porto.

“Obviously, Jurgen saw (me play in) the England games. I felt good playing in that (more attacking) position. I felt more natural and it was something he said he would think about,” said Henderson.

“I can do both positions and he sees I can do both. It’s basically what he wants and needs. I felt more comfortable and natural in that position for England, creating chances further up and doing what I enjoy doing.”

Other than during Fabinho’s two-month injury lay-off, Henderson has continued in that more advanced midfield role for Liverpool throughout this season – and the stats reflect his increased attacking output.

While playing as the team’s deepest midfielder during the 2018/19 Premier League season, he failed to score a single goal and provided just one assist. Spending the final month of the campaign in a more advanced role, he scored once and created two goals.

This term, with the shackles remaining largely off, he has scored three goals, assisted four and most tellingly created eight clear-cut chances – twice as many as during the entire 2018/19 season.

His emergence as favourite for the PFA’s annual award cannot be a coincidence. It is an acknowledgment from his fellow professionals that he is just as crucial to Liverpool’s dominance as their often-lauded front three of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, marauding full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, and defensive lynchpins Van Dijk and Alisson.

Reinventing his role has reinforced the Liverpool skipper’s importance to his manager too. Henderson has missed just one league match in 2019/20 thus far, already starting the same number of top-flight games (21) as he did during the entire 2018/19 season.

But to claim Henderson has “reinvented” himself does him a disservice. Across the two seasons prior to Klopp implementing Liverpool’s current 4-3-3 formation, and consequent repositioning of the midfielder into a defensive role, he scored 10 goals and provided 16 assists.

He was capable of this all along. The Liverpool boss has simply realised that he can ask for more from his inspirational captain, and to Henderson’s credit he has delivered.

Now it seems everyone else is starting to sit up and take notice.

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