Liverpool Focus – Henderson fighting for Reds future

What do Jose Enrique, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson have in common? The trio were signed by Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish in the summer of 2011 and new manager Brendan Rodgers has not been entirely convinced by the three individuals at various points during this season. However, while Enrique and Downing seem to have won the heart of the former Swansea boss as this topsy-turvy campaign has dragged on, Rodgers’ selection of Henderson remains as inconsistent and unpredictable as Liverpool’s results and performances this term.

Both Enrique and Downing have started in 19 top-flight games each under Rodgers – and while that may not seem a lot, spare a thought for £16m man Henderson, whose number of appearances in the starting line-up has yet to hit double figures. The central midfielder has 10 fewer starts to his name than those two left-sided players this season, but given the general quality of his performances, some would claim that it is difficult to understand why.

Henderson does not offer many goals from midfield – indeed his equalising strike against Aston Villa in Liverpool’s previous fixture was just the third time he had managed to find the net in the Premier League this campaign – but the former Sunderland player does offer bundles of drive and energy in the middle of the park. Henderson’s confidence has reappeared under Rodgers and he now seems to be playing without the pressure of a hefty price-tag. However, these final seven games of the season could be crucial for his future at Anfield.

Enrique’s re-entry into Rodgers’ good books seemed to come about mainly because the Reds did not have any other reliable senior left-backs in the squad. The Spaniard took his chance and now appears to be an important player for the Liverpool boss. Downing’s revival is not as clear-cut – the former Aston Villa star has competition for his place – however he has impressed Rodgers significantly since being told some months ago that he would be able to leave. Improved performances have lifted Downing’s confidence and he is now a regular in the team.

But Henderson is not. Despite impressing in the draws against Arsenal and Manchester City at the turn of January, the midfielder failed to complete 90 minutes in a Premier League game until the recent win over Villa. This would suggest that Rodgers is not fully convinced by the young Englishman, but given the news that Joe Allen will miss the remainder of the season through injury, this could be the perfect opportunity for Henderson to cement his place in the team. Rodgers has often favoured a three-man midfield this season and with Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard likely to start the majority of games, it seems as though Henderson will have to fight it out with Jonjo Shelvey for that final midfield slot.

Should Henderson fail to impress, then he may well be placed on the transfer list this summer as Rodgers continues to rebuild his squad. However, if the Englishman performs well over the next six weeks, then he might just save his Anfield career. The 22-year-old midfielder does not have to look far for inspiration. Enrique and Downing are now regulars – and he could be too.

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