Rodgers hails versatile Henderson
Published 03/10/2013 | 17:16
Jordan Henderson may have become Liverpool's man for all eventualities but manager Brendan Rodgers insists that should be a compliment to the player.
Twelve months ago the 23-year-old was still coming to terms with being told he had been offered to Fulham at the end of the summer transfer window as a sweetener for the failed Clint Dempsey bid.
He rejected the move and pledged to work harder to make a success of his career at Anfield and a year on he is reaping the rewards.
He may not have been able to nail down a regular place in his preferred central midfield role but in the last year he has proved his worth on the left wing and all the way down the right from full-back, through wing-back to midfield.
This weekend he may get his chance to operate centrally with defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva suspended having already accrued five bookings.
Henderson credits Rodgers with having moved him up a level and his manager, who has been grateful at times for his versatility, appreciates the effort he has put in.
"I've been so impressed since I've been here, Jordan has become better and better," said the Reds boss.
"His level, tactically, is very good. He's one that wants to improve all the time.
"If I didn't think he could play the role and function in the roles properly I wouldn't put him there so it's great credit to him.
"At the end of last season, he played as a false winger from the left, coming inside and got goals.
"He played his first season here wide on the right. He's played as a wing-back, wide in a midfield four.
"In all the systems, what you get from him is a work-rate and a mentality and Jordan has got quality.
"I don't see it as a hindrance for him, I see it only as a positive. I know he's really enjoying playing.
"Wherever he plays there's no drop-off - you still get the same.
"He's one of those players that you could play him at right-back, which I've done sometimes, and he's got forward well.
"He's a really good young footballer whose understanding of the game is improving all the time. That allows him to play in a number of different positions."
Henderson has enjoyed a good start to the season, playing every minute of the league campaign, and the energy he has put into his performances has been noticeable.
However, if he is to be switched into the middle to cover for the absence of Lucas then Rodgers warns he may have to curb his natural enthusiasm.
"It is about making the players aware there is a responsibility tactically," he added.
"Whoever plays in there has to understand the dynamic of what is required and they may have to curtail their game a little bit.
"If you move freely and empty that space it leaves it too open.
"Our movement and fluidity in the other half of the field is getting better but you have to make sure you have that tactical discipline and whoever plays in there will have to have a similar function."
Rodgers admits the suspension of Lucas, his one genuine defensive midfielder, will be a loss at home to Crystal Palace.
The Brazil international, who has just received a recall to the national squad, is almost back to his best after a surgery on a cruciate knee ligament problem in 2011.
"He has come back very well from his injury over the last number of months," Rodgers said.
"There's no doubt Lucas has started the season well. He's a very honest, committed player who understands what it is we're trying to do.
"Of course players will miss out - Daniel Agger didn't play in the last game - but with players coming in, the idea is to have a squad so that when you miss someone, someone else can come in and work.
"It will give an opportunity for someone else to come in. Hopefully that will prove seamless and they can come in and continue with a good performance."