Sunday 17 December 2017

Fresh Liverpool era to begin under new skipper Jordan Henderson at Stoke

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson

When Liverpool walk out against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium on the opening day of the season, a new man will lead the way.

Steven Gerrard's departure for Major League Soccer means a captaincy change at Anfield for the first time since the iconic midfielder wore the armband in October 2003.

Gerrard's last appearance in a Liverpool shirt ended in humiliation with the Reds suffering a 6-1 loss away to Stoke - the club's heaviest defeat since 1963.

Liverpool return to the scene of that season-ending rout with newly-installed leader Jordan Henderson (inset) at the helm as it begins an era without its once talismanic figure.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has been among the biggest spenders in the transfer market, adding eight new faces to his squad. Despite some calls for his exit following the disappointing end to last season, the club's owners have yet again backed their manager's lavish spending spree.

Christian Benteke arrived from Aston Villa in a £32.5m deal while Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino joined from German side Hoffenheim for a reported fee of £29m.

Rodgers must decide on how best to accommodate his new recruits with Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and James Milner all expected to start.

Meanwhile, Benteke has been handed Liverpool's famous number nine shirt.

Liverpool signed Benteke from Aston Villa for £32.5million two weeks ago.

The Belgian made a big impact on his debut last weekend, scoring a stunning volley in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Swindon.

And the 24-year-old has been given a confidence boost ahead of the new season after being confirmed as the club's number nine for the new season.

"Confirmed: @bentekechris20 is #LFC's new No.9," a post from Liverpool's official Twitter account read.

Some of the club's greatest players, including the likes of Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler have worn the squad number, which became available following the departure of Rickie Lambert to West Brom.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hailed Benteke after his maiden strike for the club on Sunday.

"Christian's goal was incredible, whether it was a pre-season friendly or in a league or cup game. It was wonderful technique from the big guy," Rodgers told Liverpool's website.

Rodgers has brought in seven new players this summer as he bids to get Liverpool back into the Champions League following their sixth-placed finish last season. en hindered the performances of those around him will serve little purpose when the season begins. Players will no longer be able to look to him for rescue.

Milner appears to have been identified by Rodgers as a natural replacement for Gerrard. Milner said Rodgers has promised to deploy him in central midfield and this was a key factor in his decision to leave Manchester City, where he was played in a number of varying roles.

Rodgers will hope that his squad can collectively find solutions when needed. For gone are the days of the charge that Liverpool is merely a one-man team.

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