Altering Jordan Henderson's responsibilities has made a massive difference for the Liverpool captain, and, in turn, his club, as it chases both domestic and European glory.

By 90Min
April 16, 2019

It was 1-1 against Southampton in a game Liverpool simply had to win to keep pace in the Premier League title race when Jurgen Klopp made a tactical change in the 59th minute.

Both James Milner and Jordan Henderson were introduced to the fray at St Mary's, with the words of the charismatic German ringing between their ears to "make a difference" as the game hung in the balance.

Come full-time, the Reds had sealed a 3-1 win on the south coast, with Henderson supplying the assist for Mohamed Salah's solo stunner, before scoring a late third himself to wrap up the three points, and he hasn't looked back since. 

It was a cameo laced with aggression and impetus, after he was dropped following an indifferent display in the previous game against Tottenham. It was a game in which he was subbed off as Liverpool secured a late 2-1 win. 

Although the result was the main thing, the fact the club captain came off in the midst of a title-defining game was sure to sting. Since then, Henderson has revealed details of a conversation between himself and Klopp regarding a positional change from in front of the back four to further forward.

"Me and the gaffer just had a conversation," he said. "I don't think the manager had thought about it too much until I mentioned it to him. It was something that he said he would think about.

"The manager might not have seen me in that position too much. Obviously he'd seen the England games, I felt good in the England games playing in that position.

"For me as a captain and as a player at this football club, I always put the team first. I do whatever the manager tells me to do really. But when we had the conversation I felt that I could speak my mind. I want to contribute as much as I can to the team. I feel as though I can do that more in a further forward position."

It wasn't due simply to a conversation, however, that Henderson switched into a more attacking position–he started the game against Southampton on the bench after all –but it was because he earned the right to with that display.

Henderson's goal and assist against the Saints marked the first time he had recorded both in a league game since December 2015 in a 2-2 draw against West Brom during Klopp's first months at the club.

Since then, the manager has opted to utilize the 28-year-old as a holding midfielder, relying on his quality on the ball, yet somewhat stifling arguably his greatest attribute; his running and energy. 

Following the game against Southampton, Henderson was rewarded by starting against FC Porto in a more attacking stance, with Fabinho deployed as Liverpool's holding midfielder, and it paid dividends.

Henderson supplied a defense-splitting pass for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who teed up Roberto Firmino for the second goal in the 2-0 win, putting Liverpool on the verge of reaching the semifinals of the Champions League for a second successive season. 

That quarterfinal first-leg win against Porto was a rare instance of both Henderson and Fabinho starting together at Anfield, with the only other game being the 4-3 win against Crystal Palace in January. 

It's a prospect that we could see a lot more of between now and the end of the season. Throughout the campaign it's been either one or the other for that position, with the Brazilian gaining the upper hand as the season has progressed, but now there's a strong case to play both.

The recent win against Chelsea, which saw Fabinho and Henderson start together, was billed as the final major hurdle for the Reds to overcome if they were serious about ending their 29-year wait for a league title.

With a large portion of the pre-match narrative centering around Steven Gerrard's infamous slip in 2014, one detail that faded into the background was the fact that Henderson was forced to miss that famous game due to suspension. 

He had been sent off in the latter stages of a 3-2 win over Manchester City two games prior for a naive challenge, with his presence greatly missed in the games that followed, as City went on to win the title.

Five years on, Henderson was very much involved this time around. He produced a delicate chip to the far post for Sadio Mane to head home his 18th league goal of the season, which opened the scoring 51 minutes in. 

His burst forward two minutes later–with him not being restrained in a holding position–gave Salah the space for his spectacular second in the 2-0 win, sending Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League, two points above City.

Liverpool potentially has eight games remaining in all competitions this season, with the dream of winning both the Premier League and Champions League still alive. Doing so would mean Henderson becoming the first captain to lift both for the club in one season since another midfielder, Graeme Souness, did so in the treble-winning season of 1984.

Henderson's time at Anfield has been one of peaks and valleys, but the winning of major silverware this season–buoyed by his positional alteration–would see the captain catapulted into the echelon of club greats.

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