Liverpool vs Ajax: Stunning stat shows why Klopp needs to start Henderson in CL showdown

Henderson

Liverpool will have to put a pair of disappointing results behind them when they welcome Ajax to Anfield this evening. 

A miserable week for the Reds culminated with Pascal Gross' late leveller on Saturday lunchtime, leaving a seething Jurgen Klopp on the verge of spontaneous combustion. 

But while talk of congested fixture lists, the astronomical physical demands players are being put through and the five-man substitute rule continue to rumble on, the German must be gather himself, restore calm to the dressing room and realign his focus for the visit of Ajax. 

After all, the pioneers of totaalvoetbal have been in typically domineering form in the Eredivisie this season, winning nine of their ten games to reach the summit of the division, and could move into top spot in Group D with victory on Tuesday night. 

Every year the Dutch giants are eviscerated of their star talents, but yet they rise time and again with commendable resilience.

A bunch of generational talents are hand-picked from the wonderkid-factory underneath the Amsterdam Arena and integrated into the first-team, banishing any fears that the club's willingness to sell will eventually come back to bite them.

For Liverpool, their injury crisis in defence and subsequent selection issues could work in favour of Lassina Traore, the Ajax hitman causing chaos at centre-forward this season with nine goals and as many assists in just 16 appearances across all competitions. 

Traore

But despite the widely documented defensive problems the Reds are suffering from, it was the glaring lack of fluidity and cohesion that created a stale, sterile feel to their play against Atalanta and during the first-half against Brighton. 

The second half introduction of Jordan Henderson, however, significantly changed the pattern of play on Saturday. 

Henderson does not possess the suave, sophisticated aura of an Andrea Pirlo, nor can he emulate Kevin De Bruyne's laser-like through balls or even Tanguy Ndombele's shape-shifting change of direction.

He will be perennially chastised for not being the most fashionable of midfield lynchpins and on Merseyside specifically for not being Steven Gerrard. 

But when he entered proceedings on Saturday his presence was instantly felt: the disjointed playmaking endeavours of the first-half made way for a more centralised effort to build through Henderson, who earns £140k-per-week, per Spotrac.

The fact he made just one less pass (34) than Wijnaldum and 16 less than Takumi Minamino despite being on the field for just 45 minutes shows exactly what he brings to this Liverpool side.

Without him, they are left with a playmaking vacuum that his teammates are not equipped to fill. 

Minamino

Given what the 30-year-old captain injects into the midfield, it is perhaps no surprise that Liverpool have won 75% of their fixtures he has started in this season, compared to an alarming 44% without, per Soccerbase.

And the revelation of that stat only makes his return to fitness more timely ahead of the Anfield showdown this evening. 

Liverpool know that they'll qualify for the knockout stages with a win over Ajax, but a defeat could complicate things for them on matchday six. 

With Henderson looking likely to return to the starting line-up following his second half display against the Seagulls, the underlying problems that plagued Klopp's side in their last two fixtures should be resolved. 

If anyone was still doubting Henderson's influence on this revered side, Liverpool's meek performances in his absence show exactly why Klopp needs to reinstate him to the starting line-up this evening.

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