Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s heart-to-heart with manager Jurgen Klopp has produced instant results as the midfielder feels more comfortable in his new advanced role.
It speaks volumes about the 28-year-old’s relationship with his experienced boss that he was able to make the suggestion he should be played further forward as a ‘number eight’.
Equally, the fact Henderson was prepared — and still is — to play the holding position for so long in order to accommodate other midfielders highlights his willingness to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the team.
But with summer signing Fabinho having found his feet and excelling as the deep-lying midfielder, Henderson saw his chance to expand his contribution.
As a result Liverpool have benefited as he scored his first goal in almost 18 months at Southampton last Friday and played a sublime role in the second goal against Porto.
After the Champions League quarter-final first-leg win, Klopp offered an apology of sorts, saying: “It was my fault that for one-and-a-half years he played as a number six. Sorry for that!”
But it would not have come about had it not been for the player’s gentle intervention.
I don’t think the manager had thought about it too much until I mentioned it to him. Me and the gaffer just had a conversation.
"Obviously he had seen the England games and I felt good playing in that position.
“I suppose when I spoke to the manager, it was (to say) that I do feel more natural in that position: I played there for a long time, I was sort of a box-to-box midfielder when the manager first came.
“It was something that he said he would think about. I can do both positions and he sees that I can do both. It’s basically what he wants and he needs from the team.
“I want to keep contributing to the team. When I play the deeper position my role changes and I try to do different things and I can’t affect it as much in the final third.”
Henderson did not feel he could broach the subject with Klopp until he was confident they had a suitable alternative in Fabinho.
As club captain, his leadership role meant he was not prepared to risk destabilising a winning formula.
“It’s difficult to do that, it’s hard. For me as a captain and as a player at this football club, I always put the team first,” he added.
“I do whatever the manager tells us to do really but — when we had the conversation — I felt that I could speak my mind. I felt I could play further forward in that role. In the last couple of years there hasn’t really been a player like Fabinho in that role so I’ve had to adapt to that role. I think I’ve done quite well.
“I think if you look at Fab, it’s quite natural to him, that’s his position and he’s so good at what you need to do in that position. I just thought that might give me a bit more licence to get forward more at times — but you never know.
“The manager wants me in both positions which is good for me and for the team. In certain games I might be playing in that position. In certain games he might want me to play deeper. It’s all about putting the team first, I know that.
“But at the same time 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.”