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Jordan Henderson unsettled? Why Chelsea must act on the former Liverpool captain

COMMENT: It'll be raised. But more than that, it should be acted upon. If the chance arises for Chelsea to sign Jordan Henderson this month, they need to be all over it.

First, for this column, we must question this speculation of Henderson wanting out of Al-Ettifaq and the Saudi Pro League. There's decent sources involved pushing this, but Henderson doesn't come across as one to cut-and-run. He and his family will have signed for Al-Ettifaq with eyes wide open. It's difficult, knowing Henderson the player - and the pro - believing he'd walk out on a club - and Steven Gerrard - less than six months in.

And second, it's emotive, but we'll admit it, we simply don't want to see Henderson abandon the SPL. It'd be a blow for the League. Nothing it cannot withstand, sure. But to lose what Henderson brings in terms of profile would be a setback. Former Liverpool captain. Former England captain. And still an active member of the Three Lions squad. The Mackem's presence brings credibility to the SPL and Al-Ettifaq. For him to skip out after just months into his deal, particularly with the giddiness of his nation's press declaring the heat, the football, the crowds were nothing like he was sold. It'd hurt this SPL project.

But again, we take the speculation with a pinch of salt. Indeed, his old manager at Liverpool spoke well when the rumours were put to him last week.

"Has 'Hendo' held a press conference and said he would like to leave Al-Ettifaq?" was Jurgen Klopp's response. "If he hasn't done it, it means nothing to me. He hasn't called me, but we have actually talked. But not about that.

"I really have nothing to say about it."

However, if he is unsettled. And those stories about telling Al-Ettifaq teammates of his regrets do ring true. Then, whether it's on-loan or as an outright signing, surely Chelsea must act.

It's been a long-running excuse (or is that complaint?) from Mauricio Pochettino: the lack of Premier League experience and know-how he's been working with this season. The injuries are one thing. But it's also the youth of his squad which is holding back the plans of Chelsea's manager.

And nothing highlights such issues more than Pochettino's options in midfield. Enzo Fernandez. Cole Palmer. Moises Caicedo. They've all had their moments this season. They've all showed their promise. Their potential. But like any young prospect, it's all been in fits and starts. The only consistent thing about Chelsea's midfield personnel this season is their inconsistency.

And it's no fault of the individual - nor their manager. It's football. It's the one of those unwritten rules. As Alan Hansen once said, "You don't win anything with kids". That's, of course, unless you have a spine of Schmeichel, Pallister, Keane and Cantona...

Chelsea, as we've consistently examined this season, simply don't have such experience - particularly through the central core of Pochettino's line-up. And this is where the addition of Henderson - both on and off the pitch - would instantly change things for the better.

On the pitch, it'd be a struggle to find a better leader than the England midfielder. Guiding Caicedo. Pushing and prodding Enzo. Offering an example to Romeo Lavia. This is what the Blues midfield is missing. They need an old-hand. Someone to learn from. To be guided and even protected. Henderson offers that.

And then off the pitch. Again, if Pochettino, as he's stated, is still trying to build that culture through his first team squad, it'd best to come from the senior players rather than his own staff.

"He's immaculate in everything he does," so said Ian Foster, Plymouth Argyle's new manager, of Henderson this week. Foster leaving his post as Gerrard's No2 at Al-Ettifaq to take the job at Home Park.

"From the the minute he walks into the football club to the minute he leaves - and he's normally the first and last one in those instances - he is an example to all of us in his behaviours.

"It allows me to speak to the young players in the building and say 'this is what elite behaviours look like, I've witnessed it from a player who's captained his country at the highest level'.

"It does benefit you as a coach because you get to see what elite looks like."

Setting the standard in the dressing room. Being an on-field minder for his expensive kids. Henderson's potential availability must give Pochettino pause for thought.

As we say, this column hopes Henderson sticks to his deal at Al-Ettifaq. But if he is to leave, Chelsea must act to bring the former England captain home.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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