In the latest Talking Reds column, Simon Steers analyses the development of Jordan Henderson and the impact he's making under Brendan Rodgers.
This season has seen Jordan Henderson become an important part of the Liverpool side. His versatility has been a big asset for Brendan Rodgers, and he has played in a number of different positions to help the team function.
Whilst Henderson's versatility has been a positive for Liverpool this season, it has meant that he has not been able to enjoy a run in his best position, which is an attacking box-to-box midfielder.
I have always thought that Henderson could develop into a similar type of player to Frank Lampard, a midfielder that has the ability to score goals from a deep position.
When Henderson has played in an advanced attacking midfield role for Liverpool he has got into great positions; he isn't yet as good a finisher as Lampard, but at 23 there is still time for him to develop that clinical edge.
Henderson doesn't always get the credit he deserves from supporters. This season he has sacrificed his natural instinct to provide the mobility and energy we have needed in midfield. Henderson is a natural athlete, and is the most athletic and mobile midfielder we have at the club. As a consequence, he gets through a huge amount of running every game.
Henderson has taken on a lot of responsibility this season, he works hard at pressing the ball all over the pitch. The chance he had against Arsenal was something I think he really needs to look at in order to push his game on to the next level.
He did brilliantly well to win the ball back high up the pitch, and he drove forward, making the right run, but when it opened up for him to shoot there was a hesitation, and the chance was gone.
Henderson is at his best when he acts instinctively; he almost scored a great goal against West Brom with an instinctive, first-time strike that just went over. He scored a great goal against Bolton in his first season with an instinctive strike. He has great technique, and needs to back himself in that split second. If he can add that composure to his finishing then he will take his game to another level.
Henderson probably needs to look no further than Aaron Ramsey at Arsenal, who has been incredible this season. Ramsey was written off by many Arsenal fans last year, but now he has been given a run in his best position, he has really stepped up. His goalscoring is something that he has added to his game this season, he is a similar age to Henderson; it is an area that can be improved.
The traditional box-to-box midfielder is something that is on the decline in the modern game as more specialist positions are making up the dynamic of a modern midfield. But there is still a role for those players that can be effective in defence and attack.
The obvious blueprint for any young box-to-box midfielder, especially at Liverpool, is Steven Gerrard -possibly the best box-to-box midfielder of all time. It is great for Henderson that he has Gerrard to learn from. There are facets of Gerrard's game that Henderson can look to learn from, especially his finishing.
Henderson doesn't have the all-round game of Gerrard, but he is very, very good at pressing the ball, and his range of passing is evolving. He possesses a good first-time pass; once again, it is something he does instinctively well.
Henderson also has the mobility and stamina to cover a lot of ground, so he can support the defensive midfielder even when his main role in the side is to break forward. He has the right attributes to develop into a very good box-to-box midfielder.
Whilst Henderson isn't as aggressive in the tackle as Gerrard, he is very effective at 'pinching' the ball, similar to Lucas.
In Rodgers' idealistic 11 he wants to see players that press the ball well and can win the ball back quickly. Henderson is a player that can provide that, and he has the ability and technique to get the ball forward into dangerous areas, and take up goalscoring positions from deep.
As you would expect from a player that has captained the England U21 team, Henderson is a very calm, considered player both on and off the pitch.
He has a great attitude, and Brendan Rodgers has continually referenced his desire to improve. Henderson doesn't look like a player that will fall short in giving 100 per cent every time he plays.
You sense with Henderson that he is keen to take on more responsibility at Liverpool. He has a natural leadership instinct; the more he finds his influence is growing on and off the pitch, the more confident he will become. Instead of looking around him for Suarez or Sturridge against Arsenal, it will help give him the courage to trust his own ability.
It is easy to forget Henderson has only recently turned 23 - which is the same age Frank Lampard really started maturing when he joined Chelsea. Aaron Ramsey is a year younger, but now he has been given a run in his best position he has proven to both the manager and Arsenal supporters he can be a top-class player.
As this Liverpool team continues to mature I expect that we will see Henderson grow as a player. He needs a run in his best position, from a central attacking role, before we will really see the best of him on a consistent basis.
He is also still developing as a player, so he isn't yet the finished article. He needs to work on his finishing and passing to try and build in that same instinctive thought process when he has more time. But the tools are there.
I don't think we will see the very best of Henderson until he reaches 25/26, but as he continues to mature I think he will remain a very important part of Liverpool's immediate and long-term future.
The midfield jigsaw puzzle remains very much a work in progress for Brendan Rodgers, but in Henderson he has a player that can be integral to his long-term plans.