Jordan Henderson sends message to Liverpool dressing room about responsibility
It is a slump that is not just shocking, but as Champions, almost unprecedented. Since mid-November, Liverpool have won only seven of 20 matches.
If the reasons have been obvious – 16 different central defensive pairings tells a compelling story of luckless injury – then the focus on Jurgen Klopp has been no less intense, the spotlight so searing, it provoked wild rumours of him walking away at the weekend.
He remains defiant of course, ready for the challenge presented by RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Champions League, which now becomes a watershed moment in the club’s season…the last chance of a trophy, in a campaign turned upside down in a matter of weeks.
Klopp doesn’t stand alone though, far from it. While he protects his players by almost obsessively shouldering the entire burden of blame, they know the truth, according to skipper Jordan Henderson. And they know what the response must be.
“The manager is really good in situations like this, through adversity he is the one we listen to the most – he’s always there for us as players and tries to protect us as much as possible,” the captain explained.
“But deep down we know as players we take full responsibility and it is down to us to go out on the pitch and change this tough period we are going through.
“How much responsibility should we take? Full responsibility. We know the manager tries to protect us as much as possible but as players it is down to us to change the situation we are in. It is down to us to go out there, keep fighting, starting from tomorrow.”
Henderson has been through these times before, his own career at Liverpool almost stalling, with a move to Fulham proposed, before he fought back to lead the team to a golden new era of glory.
And he knows who he wants at his side. “The manager, there are no question marks, no questions over how he reacts after games…he probably reacts the total opposite to how people think!
“He handles situations like this really well, and that is why we just want to go out there and put a performance on for the team, and for him as well.”
Leipzig couldn’t be a sterner test. Semi finalists in the completion last season, and challenging Bayern Munich with passion at the summit of the Bundesliga.
Yet Henderson, as the leader on the pitch, expects a reaction in the Champions League, a competition Liverpool have come to view as their own in recent seasons.
’It is a new opportunity, a new challenge, that is what a new game brings. We have got to go out there against a very good side and be at 100 percent,” he said.
“We set standards for a long period, then lose a few games is not normal for us, so it is something we need to adapt to. But I feel once we do come out of it, hopefully sooner than later, we will be a lot stronger. Strength comes from adversity at times.
“Right now, winning and results is the most important thing. But if you perform at a high level you have a better chance of winning. So both would be very nice, a performance and a result.
“For large parts against Leicester our performance was at a high level. But in a very short time a few mistakes, the game got out of our control. So we have to give that performance, take the mistakes away if we can do that then I am confident we can get a result.”
Divock Origi and new signing Ben Davies return to the squad after injury kept them out at the weekend, while Klopp is unlikely to risk either Fabinho or James Milner, with both missing the final training session before the first leg against Leipzig in Budapest.
The manager has also left Naby Keita and Diogo Jota behind to give them more intense days of training, as they step up from long injury spells.
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