When it comes to analysing the performances of a footballer, we instinctively turn to quantitative measures – goals, assists, clean sheets and the like.
But for midfield generals, the analysis is often just as much qualitative – their importance to a team going above and beyond mere numbers.
Liverpool have been lucky to have not one but two of the best English midfielders of the modern era in Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, and in a ‘it takes one to know one’ twist it’s rather ironic that one of Gerrard’s first signings as manager of Saudi outfit Al-Ettifaq looks set to be the Reds’ club captain.
After a so-so 2022/23 campaign, Henderson remains a fond favourite of the Anfield faithful after years of passionate performances – albeit the pro-LBGT spokesperson has rather tarnished his reputation by taking the money on offer in a country not known for its open-mindedness.
To settle any pub debates once and for all, who has been the best Liverpool midfielder of the modern era?
By the Numbers
As mentioned, Henderson has never really been the swashbuckling type of midfielder that chips in with goals and assists a-plenty – his contributions are much harder to quantify.
Gerrard certainly weighed in with his fair share of goals in a red shirt, and it’s no surprise to learn that by that metric he has outperformed Hendo by 185 goals to 33.
It’s true too that no Liverpool player has served up more assists for their teammates in the Premier League era than Gerrard, whose tally of 92 is more than double that of Henderson’s 45.
If you really dug deep into the numbers and collated some rather less heralded stats, you might find that Henderson was the equal of Gerrard in areas such as tackles made and passes completed.
And there’s one stat that is rather interesting: Henderson had a better win ratio as a Liverpool player than Gerrard did: 59.6% defeating 52.4%.
|Trophy||Steven Gerrard||Jordan Henderson|
|UEFA Cup/Europa League||1||0|
|UEFA Super Cup||1||1|
|World Club Cup||0||1|
Although not an individual accolade of course, it’s interesting to see how many trophies the pair won while at Liverpool – as captains, for the most part, they exerted a clear influence on the club’s hunt for silverware.
For Gerrard, the Premier League trophy would remain eternally elusive – his infamous slip against Chelsea will live long in his, and those that were present at Anfield that fateful day, memory.
He made up for it by skippering the Reds to the Champions League trophy in 2004/05, a UEFA Cup, two FA Cups and three League Cups, as well as the UEFA Super Cup.
Henderson, meanwhile, will forever be remembered as the first Liverpool captain to lift the Premier League trophy – a moment of legacy-making permanence. The Reds’ former number eight also skippered the Reds to a Champions League triumph in 2018/19, one FA Cup, two League Cups and the UEFA Super Cup, as well as victory in the FIFA Club World Cup….if you consider that to be of any consequence.
Perhaps one marker of a midfielder’s influence is how often they get selected to represent their country – a tangible outcome in a position of unquantifiable output, for the most part.
Gerrard won 114 caps for England, scored 21 goals and played in three World Cups – but never got his hands on a major trophy for his country.
Henderson, meanwhile, has won 77 England caps as of July 2023 – they may be his last if Gareth Southgate considers his move to Saudi Arabia to be a considerable step down in quality. He played in the Three Lions’ heartbreaking defeat in the final of Euro 2020.
Respect of Their Peers
|Award||Steven Gerrard||Jordan Henderson|
|PFA Players’ Player||1||0|
|PFA Young Player||1||0|
|Premier League Team of the Year||8||1|
|Premier League Player of the Month||6||0|
|Liverpool Player of the Season||4||1|
Although a team sport, footballers love it when they are recognised individually for their efforts.
The Ballon d’Or is arguably the most prestigious prize in football for individual players, and Gerrard finished third behind Ronaldinho in the voting back in 2005.
In addition, Gerrard was crowned UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 2005, PFA Player of the Year in 2006 and was named in the Premier League Team of the Year eight times and the FIFPro World XI and UEFA Team of the Year on three occasions. He’s also been inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame.
Henderson’s personal accolades are somewhat thinner on the ground, although he was selected in the PFA Team of the Year for 2019/20, was the Football Writers’ Player of the Year that same season and named Liverpool’s Player of the Year during that glorious Premier League winning campaign.