Since his arrival on Deadline Day in August 2016 Markus Henriksen has been subject to constant criticism – an act I like to call ‘Henriksen bashing’.
Some of it has been justified. Since his City career started so brightly on debut in City’s 2-1 EFL cup win away to Stoke City, where he recorded an assist (more famous for Ryan Mason’s superb finish) and a late winner, he has failed to win over the City faithful.
He appeared to struggle with the pace and physicality of the Premier League after joining from Eredivisie’s AZ Alkmaar, with a combination of injuries and form preventing him from a clear run of games in the side. 15 Premier League games amounting to zero goals meant fans were quick to question the credentials of a man who came with a reputation of being a goal-scoring midfielder. In fact, it got to the stage where fans were booing him coming on as a substitute.
For a player who has apparently performed so poorly it’s been interesting to see that the four managers he has played under in his short career at the KCOM Stadium have all kept their faith in the Norwegian international and continue to give him the opportunity to impress. The formations deployed by each manager mean there is often no attacking midfielder, instead favouring a third deep-lying midfielder meaning Henriksen has had to adjust to a position he is not necessarily comfortable with and one that requires a different, more balanced mindset.
Since returning from injury, particularly in Saturday’s game against Norwich, he has really made the position his own. Alongside Sebastian Larsson and Jackson Irvine there appears to be a good balance in midfield with the formers adding the defensive bite that perhaps Henriksen lacks. He’s cool on the ball, perhaps lackadaisical sometimes, and is usually the man to win the second ball and kick-start the attack.
The tempo he plays at on the ball is a real asset as he gets attacks moving forward quickly. His work doesn’t stop there with much of City’s good attacking play in the last few weeks coming through Irvine and Henriksen feeding the dangerous Jarrod Bowen and Harry Wilson. He adds continuity in the final third, keeping the ball moving before the final pass.
What he certainly does need to add back to his game from his days in Holland is goals. His excellent strike against Ipswich was just his second in the league this season and myself, like others, feel like he can add many more to his game. He may not be the industrious Ashbee-like midfielder City fans cry out for but when the right players are around him, he can be a real asset for City.
Perhaps one of the few quality assets that will be at the KCOM Stadium next season.
Henry is a young sports writer, follow him on twitter @HenryWAClark and check out his blog www.youngsportsjourno.