Did Jordan Henderson Deserve FWA’s Footballer of the Year Award?

Jul 19, 2019; South Bend, IN, USA; Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson (14) dribbles the ball in the second half of a pre-season preparation soccer match against the Borussia Dortmund at Notre Dame. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a terrific season for Liverpool in which he achieved almost 100 points despite an inconsistent end to the campaign, captain Jordan Henderson has been named as the Football Writers’ Association’s Men’s Footballer of the Year.

Henderson has had an impressive season and has been the driving force in a side that has demolished all others on their way to winning their first English Premier League title in 30 years.

Due to this brilliant form and team achievement, the FWA has awarded Henderson with this highly-acclaimed personal accolade. But is it deserved? Has the Reds’ captain been the best player in the EPL this season? Or is there anybody more deserving of the award?

There is no denying that Henderson has had a very good campaign. As Liverpool captain, he has led the club to the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the much-coveted EPL. While they would have been hoping to progress further in the UEFA Champions League, the EPL trophy was the one that Liverpool’s hierarchy and fans wanted most.

When looking at the England International’s stats this season, they don’t necessarily show a player worthy of winning the FWA’s accolade. In 30 appearances, Henderson has made nine goal contributions, scoring four goals and assisting five. Defensively, the central midfielder has made 63 tackles, 30 interceptions, and won 116 of his duels.

Henderson’s numbers put him nowhere near the top of any of the charts but stats don’t tell the whole story. Otherwise, Mesut Ozil would have been named as Footballer of the Year in 2015-16 for his 19 assists alone.

No, the midfielder’s contribution to Liverpool’s EPL accomplishments go further than stats. He has been a general in the midfield, dictating play and commanding the middle of the park. With his vocal presence, Henderson has led by example and, in lifting the EPL trophy, he has achieved something which no other Liverpool captain has.

Henderson’s contributions to the team are further magnified when you look at the Reds with and without their captain across all competitions. Liverpool have played 56 games this season, with Henderson playing in 40 of those matches. In the 40 matches he has played, the EPL champions have won 32, which is a win percentage of 8 percent. In the 16 matches he has not played, Liverpool have won 10, a win percentage of 62.5 percent.

Looking at the Premier League alone, of the 30 games the Merseyside club played in with Henderson in the team, they won 27 (a win percentage of 90 percent), drawing two and losing just one game. In the seven games that Henderson has missed, they have won four (a win percentage of just 57.1 percent), drawing one and losing two games.

But who else was in the running?

The first name that jumps out is Kevin De Bruyne, who can feel hard done by in not being named the FWA’s Men’s Footballer of the Year, finishing second in the running.

In the EPL this season, De Bruyne has registered some phenomenal numbers. Having played in 34 of Manchester City’s games, he has 30 goal contributions to his name with an astonishing 11 goals and 19 assists. De Bruyne is top of the assists and through balls charts for a City side finishing strongly in second place. While they would have been hoping for more this season, they are still in the UEFA Champions League and if they go on to lift the trophy for the first time, it will have been a successful season for Pep Guardiola’s side.

Henderson’s England teammate, Marcus Rashford, was third in the number of votes received. He has had his best season in terms of output since his debut in 2015-16, scoring an impressive 17 goals for a Manchester United side who have ended the season in tremendous form and look set to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

With the Liverpool trio of Sadio Mane (who also scored 17 goals), Virgil Van Dijk (who was last season’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year and 2019’s runner-up for the Ballon d’Or) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (who has been magnificent at right-back this season) also missing out on the award, Henderson has beaten some very stiff competition.

Ultimately, there is a compelling case that says that Henderson was not a deserving recipient of the award. Players, like the ones mentioned above, have statistically outperformed the Liverpool captain in many areas and have shown their undoubted quality throughout the season.

However, Henderson has led his Liverpool side to a monumental title. He has marshaled the defense, led by example in the midfield, and barked orders to his magnificent attacking line. While the individual stats do not fall in the Englishman’s favor, Liverpool’s team stats certainly do and there has been a clear difference in their form with and without him in the side.

So, let the more fancied and highly-acclaimed players lead their individual stats tables. For once, it’s great to see an unsung hero get the recognition that he deserves.

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