It was bound to happen at some point.

Liverpool’s Unbeaten Premier League run ended with a 3-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Watford. As goals from Ismaïla Sarr and Troy Deeney ensured Jürgen Klopp’s men fell five games short of Arsenal’s 2004 ‘invincibles’ record of 49 Premier League games undefeated. 

A whole 422 days after their last Premier League loss, Klopp’s men equalled the longest Premier League winning streak – set by Manchester City – at 18.

One thing was always likely to happen when Liverpool’s inevitable defeat arrived; they would have played without one of their key men. 
Many thought it would be Virgil Van Dijk and others argued influential captain Jordan Henderson, and so it proved.

Liverpool have missed Henderson’s physical and mental contribution to the cause since going off with a hamstring injury against Atlético Madrid.

Jordan Henderson has been inspirational this season. (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

League opponents have expectedly taken a blueprint from Atleti’s Champions League Round of 16 first leg defeat of Liverpool, with West Ham having fallen to a late Sadio Mané winner after going ahead with 26 minutes to go at Anfield last time out.

Watford dropped deep and denied Liverpool space in behind to register only a single shot on target in the 90 minutes, failing to score for the first time in 37 games.

Nigel Pearson’s men stood rigid and rode their luck combined with clinical finishing, personified by the brilliant Ismaïla Sarr’s brace.
Pertinently, their Achilles heel in the first fixture in December being a lack of killer instinct; the Hornets were able to maintain their lead with Klopp’s men going behind for the second game running having gone 15 league fixtures previously without trailing.

Ismaïla Sarr ended Liverpool’s unbeaten streak with a two-goal Salvo

Trent Alexander-Arnold was exposed time and again defensively. The young fullback could have fared much better with Henderson covering gaps behind him, leaving no guesses as to how much he feels comfortable with his skipper on the pitch in a recent Q&A on social media.

— Trent Alexander-Arnold (@trentaa98) February 10, 2020

Henderson has been one of Klopp’s most outstanding performers, keeping the house in order -and thus the winning run- while some of Liverpool’s other superstars have been otherwise contained.

He has contributed two goals and three assists in seven league games this year, in which time his efficiency on the ball has improved with a 34% increase in pass completion. 

Emerging as a serious contender for Player of The Season, It is easy to see why the Reds missed such an influence in midfield.

Henderson’s character and consistency has been key for Liverpool in 2019/2020. (Andrew Kearns/CameraSport via Getty Images)

There was a palpable void in the middle of the park for Liverpool, with many of their captain’s clearances often proving out-balls for counter-attacks thus relieving pressure. 

Adam Lallana offered little in way of incisiveness or energy a la Henderson in his 30 minutes on the pitch, further emphasizing Hendo’s knack of doing the simple things perfectly.

Liverpool had been there before, frustrated by opponents, their captain consistently provided the mental fortitude needed to keep going and get the job done.

READ ALSO: Liverpool’s Captain fantastic – Jordan Henderson

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The 29-year-old’s on-pitch leadership has been key for Klopp’s men, as he’s seen barking at teammates and directing play his grit and desire was often required to drag his teammates over the line with match-winning contributions particularly in games against Wolves and Tottenham.

Liverpool have lacked creativity in midfield areas since the exit of Philippe Coutinho with Henderson’s relentless energy and desire seeing him lead by example. Without him, the forwards were isolated, the midfield failed to break Watford down and the backline was clinically breached.

To put this into context, Liverpool held just over 70% ball possession but conceded twice as many shots (14) than their opponents.

On a night where Abdoulaye Doucoure excelled, you get the feeling Henderson could have helped win a few more duels across the park for the Champions-elect.

Henderson would lift this year’s Premier League trophy come May, with Liverpool requiring 12 more points from 10 games. However, the Merseysiders know they couldn’t have been close to invincible without Klopp’s on-pitch Lieutenant. 

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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