Jordan Henderson v Paul Pogba: The key battle when Liverpool host Manchester United
By Marc Harrington
Last Updated: 17/10/16 7:54pm
Will Jordan Henderson or Paul Pogba come out on top of the midfield tussle on MNF? We analyse the duel...
The last two Premier League champions might be meeting at lunchtime on Saturday but games don't come much bigger than Liverpool v Manchester Utd. England's most successful club sides continue their rivalry at Anfield on Monday Night Football with Jurgen Klopp's side eager to avenge United's Premier League double over them last season.
Both sides can pick from an array of attacking talent but the game's most intriguing contest will be in the middle of the park where Jordan Henderson will do battle with the world's most expensive footballer, Paul Pogba.
After initially struggling to adjust to life at Anfield following his £20m signing from Sunderland in June 2011, Henderson has succeeded Steven Gerrard as captain and is now flourishing under Klopp. Arguably, the 26-year-old is currently in the best form of his career, culminating in him being named England captain for the game against Slovenia on Tuesday.
Liverpool's attacking play may be making headlines this season but without Henderson providing a solid base in the middle of the pitch the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane would find their job significantly harder. The Liverpool captain has had the most touches (711) and made the most passes (589) not just for Liverpool this season, but in the entire Premier League. Also, covering an average of 11.8km per game, Henderson is one of the hardest working players in the Premier League only behind Burnley's George Boyd (12.7km).
Henderson in the 2016/17 Premier League
|Stat||Total||Liverpool rank||PL rank|
|Touches per game||102||1st||1st|
|Passes per game||84||1st||1st|
Thanks to their solid base and pressing style, Liverpool have been the most effective and entertaining attacking force in the Premier League this season. Currently joint top scorers with Man City, the Reds also top the charts for attempts, chances created and distance covered this season.
Liverpool in 2016/17 Premier League
|Shots on target||49||1st|
|Avg distance/ game||116km||1st|
At present, Pogba is playing a similar role to Henderson as one of Manchester Utd's two deeper lying midfielders and, like his opponent, he has had most touches (561) and most passes (427) for his club this season. Where Pogba needs to match Henderson in this game is in his defensive duties as he averages two tackles fewer per game and clocks up nearly one kilometre less in every game.
Henderson v Pogba - 2016/17 Premier League
|1||Shots per game||4|
|102||Touches per game||94|
|84||Passes per game||71|
|4||Tackles per game||2|
|54||Sprints per game||52|
Pogba's attacking threat has yet to come to the fore this season, though it has not been for the want of trying. He has had 21 attempts (only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had more for United) but only five have been on target. Perhaps his long-range winner for France against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Monday was a warning and a sign of things to come for Liverpool.
Despite not having found his shooting range in the domestic game, Pogba has been a key man in United's midfield. Even though he has yet to make a Premier League assist this season, the French international has created 11 chances for team-mates. Only Wayne Rooney with 12 has created more for Man Utd this season.
At 6ft 3in, Pogba is also a significant threat from set-pieces, and his only goal for Man Utd was headed in from a corner against Leicester at the end of September. Set-pieces have proved to be Liverpool's Achilles heel under Klopp with 16 of their 50 Premier League goals conceded under the German coming from corners or free-kicks. With Jose Mourinho's side currently leading the way in goals from set-pieces (four) and also corners (three) this season, Pogba and team-mate Marouane Fellaini could gain some success in this area.
To stop Liverpool from winning a fifth successive Premier League game, Pogba will more than likely have to curb his attacking game and match the work rate and influence of Henderson in the middle of the park. Should he fail and Henderson get as much of the ball as he's had in previous games then Liverpool's attacking players will be able to continue their impressive start to the season and extend Man Utd's indifferent start to the campaign.