Jordan Henderson has recounted the conversation he had with Jurgen Klopp that saw him switch roles in midfield and prompted an upturn in form.
The captain took up duties as Liverpool’s deepest midfielder in Klopp’s second season with the club, and was often criticised for his performances.
It has partly contributed to a lack of popularity for Henderson among a section of supporters, but with few other natural options for the No. 6, he was deemed the best fit and applied himself impressively.
The arrival of Fabinho from Monaco last summer, and his slow transition into the XI, saw Henderson fade out of Klopp’s priorities, but an open conversation earlier this year reinvigorated the 29-year-old.
A goal and an assist off the bench in the 3-1 win at Southampton in April was followed by a strong showing on his return to the starting lineup against Porto.
Now, he has restored his first-choice status, typically alongside Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum, serving as a No. 8.
Speaking to Jamie Carragher as part of his The Greatest Game podcast, Henderson detailed his feeling at the time and why he approached Klopp to discuss a change.
“Listen, when I’m not playing I’m not great, and I find it really difficult,” he admitted.
“I always respect the players around me and know how good the other players are, and it’s not a case of ‘I should be starting’, it’s more of a ‘what can I do to get in the team?’ and ‘what do I need to be doing better?’.
“And at that time I’d played a position where I needed to play, because obviously we didn’t really have that type of player.
“I learned a role that was needed, and I felt as though I learned that role really well, and the gaffer helped me do that role so well.
“When Fab came in—and in the sort of December time he started really taking on that role really well, and it was more of his natural position and for me he’s so good in that position—after that period I started thinking ‘maybe now I can show what I feel as though is more natural to me’.
“So it was around that time I had a conversation with the manager about maybe playing a little bit further forward in the No. 8.
“It was more natural, I played there for England as well.”
Carragher asked whether it was more a demand from captain to manager, but Henderson refuted this, insisting it was a positive, productive back-and-forth.
“It was more of a conversation with the manager where I wanted to see what he thought, and I wanted to see where he thought was my best position,” he continued.
“So it was definitely more of a conversation, I wanted to feel where he thought I sat: was I more of a No. 6 for him?
“To be fair the answer was ‘well, both. I see you as both’.
“And he asked me what I thought and I just said ‘I feel the No. 8 is a lot more natural for me, and I’ve played there for England recently and I felt as though I played well’.
“I was just more confident in that position, and obviously he took that on board.
“In the next game after that I didn’t start, but I was ready to then, because I’d had the conversation with him, I knew exactly what he wanted for me.
“I was ready to go and show that in that position I could contribute even more.”
This season, despite rotation Henderson has been a regular starter, and in his last three appearances has scored one and assisted one, including an excellent cross for Sadio Mane in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Man City.
A move back to the No. 8 that better utilises his energy, work rate and forward thrust appears to be benefiting both player and club.