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Liverpool's big problem is Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson of Liverpool FC reacts during the UEFA Champions League group E match between Sevilla FC and Liverpool FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on November 21, 2017 in Seville,...

Liverpool have a defensive problem, especially away from home, and many put this down to their centre-backs. But the problem is actually Jordan Henderson.

Jordan Henderson of Liverpool FC reacts during the UEFA Champions League group E match between Sevilla FC and Liverpool FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on November 21, 2017 in Seville,...

It's very easy to blame Liverpool's centre-backs for their woes, and alright they are the ones making the big mistakes in the obvious moments, but the core of the problem is at the heart of the side.

Jordan Henderson is Liverpool's captain, a role he inherited from Steven Gerrard. Many took this as a endorsement in Henderson's ability to dominate midfield in the way Gerrard used to.

But instead of being pushed forward as Gerrard was, Henderson has been drawn deeper into a defensive midfield role. On the face of it, one can see the logic behind this move.

Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates his goal with Jordan Henderson during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Queens Park Rangers at Anfield on May 2, 2015 in...

Henderson is a superb long-range passer of the ball. Since the start of the 2016/17 season he has attempted 376 long balls and completed 215 of them, and only four outfielders can boast a better record than this, with only Eric Dier and Granit Xhaka doing better than Henderson's 57% long ball completion.

So putting Henderson at the base of Liverpool midfield, putting him in an ideal position to launch long balls into attacking areas for the Reds' dynamic forwards to do the damage. And sure, Henderson can do that, but they also need him to provide a defensive counterbalance to all that attacking power.

Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool FC shake hands with Jordan Henderson of Liverpool FC after the end of  the UEFA Champions League group E match between Sevilla FC and Liverpool FC at Estadio...

And that's where Henderson lets his side down. He's quite simply not a defensive midfielder and it really shows. Since the start of last season he's made 50 interceptions, which seems impressive until you realise that 82 players have done better.

Even when you narrow it down to just midfielders, 23 have racked up more interceptions than Henderson. Oriol Romeu and N'Golo Kanté have more than double the interceptions. But okay, they've played more than the injury-prone Liverpool skipper. But then Ander Herrera, who has played 2,932 minutes compared to Henderson's 3,018, still has 94 interceptions.

  PositionTeamTotal Long BallsAccurate Long BallsTotal TackleWon TackleInterceptionGamesMins
Granit Xhaka MF Arsenal 372 257 94 67 50 44 3,536
Eric Dier MF Tottenham 356 244 64 45 49 48 4,021
Jordan Henderson MF Liverpool 376 215 112 79 50 34 3,018
Nemanja Matic MF Man Utd / Chelsea 298 208 73 49 70 47 3,777
Harry Arter MF Bournemouth 271 195 96 74 56 43 3,600
Paul Pogba MF Man Utd 270 181 57 44 37 35 3,038
Mark Noble MF West Ham 246 169 66 40 49 38 3,013
N'Golo Kanté MF Chelsea 209 158 158 106 102 44 3,936
Christian Eriksen MF Tottenham 225 145 58 42 25 48 4,182
Fernandinho MF Man City 243 145 107 70 84 44 3,805

Henderson simply can't stop opponent attacks with the regularity that most defensive midfielders should do, let alone a side that is as problematic at the back as Liverpool are. Worse still, when pressured by opponents, even Henderson's passing falls to pieces. Against Sevilla he played just 30 passes, and completed only 17.

When your defensive midfielder, the passing pivot of your entire side, only has a 57% passing accuracy - is it really any surprise you can't keep it together? Sevilla's comeback can't have come as a surprise in the sense that Liverpool have no idea how to hold onto a lead and be a dominant force.

Until Liverpool get themselves a proper defensive midfielder (hopefully in the January transfer window) they will continue to struggle defensively in the big games.

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