For the first time in what seemed like weeks, Liverpool supporters got a sustained glimpse of the Jordan Henderson from a season ago. The win over Swansea City on Monday evening at Anfield offered plenty of reasons for encouragement, and the vice captain's return to form in midfield was chief among them. Restored to his more accustomed role centrally, Henderson did a little bit of everything for Brendan Rodgers, and for a player who's struggled to adapt to the myriad deployments Rodgers has assigned, it was a long overdue display.
His recent difficulties aren't entirely of his own making, as he's featured in a number of different roles as Rodgers searched for a system that could get the best out of the personnel available. That process has seen Henderson deployed throughout the midfield and forward areas and, more recently, as a makeshift wingback as Liverpool shifted to a 3-4-3. The 24-year-old had covered as a fullback in emergency situations last season, but this was a more permanent-seeming shift, and one that dragged him further away from the position in which he made his mark last season.
He did a job in the manner you would expect--hard-working, good engine, tactically responsible--but didn't provide anything near the performance he produced against Swansea, which saw him combine those base attributes with actual match-changing influence, getting forward when needed and combining with Lucas to give the hosts a more balanced midfield in the 4-1 win.
On the heels of such an impressive display individually and collectively, Henderson was quick to praise Rodgers' willingness to make changes, asserting that the alterations made in recent weeks will only make the squad stronger:
"He's outstanding at seeing what's happening in games and changing it whenever he needs to. We changed to [3-4-3] towards the end of the Basel game and we thought we did well. He looked at that and went through it with us in the meeting room and on the training field. Everyone buys into it because we know he's so good tactically.
"He has proved he's a top class manager. For me, he's one of the top managers in the world. If it's not going right in the first 10 to 15 minutes he will change something. He definitely innovates. We all know he wants to get the best out of the team and help everybody to ensure that tactically we are better and improving all the time."
Ignoring that he's overcooking the praise a bit, there is certainly a case to be made that, stubbornness with certain selections aside, Rodgers' tinkering has finally started to pay off. Improved performances and moral victories have given way to actual results with pieces that fit. With four more league fixtures on the horizon before the end of January, it's possible these changes give way to further positive results, ones that could see Liverpool regain relevance in the Premier League table once again.
Before they get to that point, however, Henderson and Liverpool will need Brendan Rodgers to continue to innovate, and make decisions that ensure both the short- and long-term future of the club. Chief among those decisions will be how he handles the impending returns of Dejan Lovren and Glen Johnson from injury, as well as the reintegration of Steven Gerrard after the squad looked so cohesive, effective, and energetic in his absence.