Following the sad but inevitable departure of Danish centre back Daniel Agger to his boyhood team Brondby, there is a vacancy for Liverpool’s vice-captain. In this article, I evaluate four of the main contenders and provide my opinion on who should be Steven Gerrard’s second in command.
The 24-year old all action midfielder has cemented his place as a firm fans’ favourite after undergoing a remarkable transformation under the guidance of excellent man-manager Brendan Rodgers.
After signing from Sunderland for £16 million in the summer of 2011, Henderson struggled in his first season at the club and, when Rodgers replaced Dalglish in the Anfield hot seat a year later, Henderson’s Liverpool career seemed over as he was offered to Fulham in part-exchange for American striker Clint Dempsey. Both Rodgers and Kopites are, in hindsight, absolutely delighted that he turned down the offer of a move to the capital.
|Henderson has a bright future at Anfield|
Henderson’s career trajectory has since sky-rocketed upwards, as he has proven his many doubters wrong and gone from strength-to-strength, firmly establishing himself as a first team regular by playing in 35 Premier League matches in 2013/2014. He was sorely missed during three out of the final four games after he picked up his first career red card in injury time of the 3-2 win over Manchester City.
Still only young and with plenty of potential, Henderson is beginning to become a regular in Roy Hodgson’s England squad as well and seems capable of performing at the highest level for the foreseeable future. He might make a brilliant understudy to Steven Gerrard, particularly since they share a similar position in the team and, who knows, former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson may be right in describing Henderson as the perfect candidate to take over from Gerrard once he eventually retires.
The clean-shaven Skrtel is a seasoned campaigner at Anfield and already captains the Slovakia national team, so he’s undoubtedly in with a shout of becoming the Reds’ next vice-captain. The number 37 has been at Liverpool for nearly six years and, in that time, has proven his worth to the team, despite suffering some shaky spells and possessing a tendency to sporadically make silly and costly errors, normally in the form of own goals.
However, the responsibility of vice-captaincy may bring out more consistency in his performances and, unlike Sakho, Skrtel possesses a credible goal threat, contributing a very impressive seven goals last season.
|Skrtel celebrating one of his seven goals|
More pertinently, the 29-year old has considerable experience and would be capable of leading and organising from the back, providing a good example for youngsters such as Tiago Ilori and Jon Flanagan as well. Hence, he would be an able replacement for his former centre back partner Agger.
The summer signing from Southampton already appears to have assumed the mantle of leader of the back four, so it might not be a stretch to extend his leadership responsibilities over the whole team.
An excellent defender and able communicator, Lovren looks set to be the Reds’ much needed long term replacement for former vice-skipper and club legend Jamie Carragher. The Croatia international seems certain to be an integral part of Rodgers’ squad going forward and centre back has traditionally been a strategic position for captains to organise from.
|Lovren completed a big money move from Southampton this summer|
However, it might be a bit early to promote him to vice-captain. He needs to settle in and beat off competition from Sakho and Skrtel to become a permanent fixture in the Reds’ back four before being given the extra responsibility associated with the vice-captaincy.
Sturridge is an outside contender for the vice-captaincy because strikers rarely make good skippers and the England forward, who recently picked up an injury while on international duty, is still only young at 25.
Following the dissolution of the prolific SAS partnership after the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for £75 million this summer, the primary responsibility for filling the 30 goal gap left by the Uruguayan has fallen upon the former Man City and Chelsea striker.
|Sturridge's eccentric signature goal celebration|
Making him the vice-captain might increase his confidence and demonstrate Rodgers’ faith in the forward, spurring him on to step up to the plate and fire in the goals that make Kopites forget about Luis Suarez.
However, he lacks the leadership and organisational qualities when compared to Henderson, Lovren and Skrtel and it just seems too difficult to lead by anything other than example from the front line. As a result, I’d be surprised to see Sturridge selected as Liverpool’s new vice-skipper.
Jordan Henderson appears to be the best candidate for the vice-captaincy. Lovren is too new to the club, Skrtel too error prone and striker Sturridge will simply find it tough to lead from the front line, particularly considering he doesn’t seem to be a natural leader anyway.
Skilled, energetic and dedicated, Henderson’s rise has been meteoric and making him Gerrard’s understudy would be just reward for all the hard work he has put in to proving his critics wrong. Allowing him to take over Gerrard’s duties in his absence may well be the perfect precursor to him wearing the armband on a permanent basis at some point in the future.