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Jordan Henderson is playing higher and Liverpool's midfield revamp could be vital in title race

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The shackles are off for Jordan Henderson and Liverpool's midfield revamp could be vital to their title chase... how changes to the engine room have the Reds roaringJordan Henderson had chat  with Jurgen Klopp about playing more advanced Liverpool captain has flourished since being given freedom to attack recentlyHe scored against Southampton and delivered cross for opener against Chelsea Fabinho and Naby Keita are also showing form to justify outlay in the summerBoth started slowly with Reds but confidence is beginning to grow stronger 

If Liverpool manage to pip Manchester City to the title, their revamped midfield could yet prove to be the decisive factor. 

Jurgen Klopp has shifted the balance in his engine room and the Reds are humming along nicely with seven wins on the trot.  

The 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday provided further evidence, both tactically and in terms of personnel, that a more effective balance has been found in the heart of the team.

Jordan Henderson has excelled for Liverpool since being allowed to play further forward

Jordan Henderson's shackles have been loosened and after a chat with his manager he's been allowed to play further forward to great effect. 

Fabinho and Naby Keita are brimming with confidence and look worth the combined £91million splurged on them in the summer. 

They've both tightened a grip on starting roles but with Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner snapping at their heels, competition for place is ferocious at the business end of this season. 

Here, Sportsmail takes a deeper look at how the Liverpool midfield has been transformed in recent weeks. 

Perhaps Gareth Southgate is the man to thank. Henderson had been gainfully employed in a more disciplined role on Liverpool's run to the Champions League final last year and most of this season. 

But on international duty, he excelled when given the chance to play higher up the pitch for England. 

Klopp was open minded to a shift in his own set-up and the club captain had a chat with his boss about it.

'I can do both positions and (Klopp) sees I can do both, it's basically what he wants and needs,' Henderson said after the most recent Euro 2020 qualifiers. 

Henderson played on the right side of midfield and took the attack to Chelsea 

Jordan Henderson's heat map from the Chelsea clash shows he played further forwards

'I felt more comfortable... in (an advanced) position for England, creating chances and doing what I enjoy doing.

'I feel as though I can do more in a position further forward. Me and the gaffer had a conversation. Obviously he saw the England games... and it was something he said he'd think about.'

Despite Liverpool's brilliant season, they've often struggled for creativity in the final third but after their conversation, Klopp entrusted Henderson with a more prominent attacking role and he's added a new dimension. 

Having struggled for form, the 28-year-old came off the bench against Southampton with a point to prove. He was like a man possessed and looked like he'd spontaneously combust after arriving late in the box to slot in Liverpool's third. 

The performance earned him a start against Porto and then Chelsea and he's more than repaid Klopp's faith. 

His heat maps are a clear illustration of how his role on the right side of a three in midfield is more advanced now. 

Henderson caused the defenders all kinds of problems coming from deep to attack

Henderson chipped the cross for Mane's opener on Sunday and created space with a clever run for Mo Salah to cut inside and smash in the second. 

A comparison of his average positions against Napoli and then Porto in the Champions League and Chelsea home and away underlines the point.  

And the stats back it up too. Henderson's average number of passes in his own half this season is 32.4, on Sunday it was just 14.  

His average number of chances created per game is 0.6 compared with the 2.3 against the Blues. Incidentally, when he played slightly further forward under Brendan Rodgers back in 2014 when Liverpool missed out on the league by two points, he created an average of 1.8 chances a game. 

Touches in the opposition box has risen dramatically too, from an average of 1.3 to 5 at Anfield this weekend. 

Henderson has always had the capacity to contribute to attacking play but his tenacity and Liverpool's lack of an out and out defensive midfield last term meant Klopp needed his captain to take one for the team and sit further back. 

Mo Salah cut inside to score Liverpool's second and Henderson (right) created some space

Henderson (left) has added another dimension to the attack in recent matches 

This season however, Fabinho's emergence as a shield for the back four has been key.  

Henderson admitted as much: 'In the last couple of years there hasn't really been a player like Fabinho in that role, so I've had to adapt,' he said. 'I just thought that might give me a bit more licence to get forward more.' 

He he can maintain the current level of output, Henderson will become almost impossible to drop in pressure cooker of this season's run-in. 

The Brazilian was hardly seen early in the season as Klopp drilled the former Monaco man in his methods.

A few Liverpool fans were fearful of a Tiemoue Bakayoko scenario but Fabinho has since become an ideal fulcrum in defensive midfield. 

He's the brains and the brawn, starting attacks and putting a stop to opposition forays forward. Against Chelsea on Sunday he drew a massive roar from the crowd with an early slide tackle on Eden Hazard. 

The Belgian was left writhing in pain but Fabinho was allowed to play on and his robust tackle set the tone. 

Fabinho's role hasn't changed massively since Henderson started playing further forward but he's a safety blanket when the skipper surges upfield. 

The 25-year-old acknowledged that he struggled to adapt to life at Anfield initially but things started to click after a few months. 

Fabinho put in a statement tackle on Eden Hazard early in the game against Chelsea

Fabinho was everywhere on Sunday afternoon but is the most defensive of the midfielders

'The intensity is different from what I am used to (but) I've got into the rhythm of the team and got used to the style of play,' he told the club's website. 

'Obviously in the first games I didn't have that automatic understanding with the rest of the team, so I had to work a bit harder to understand other players' runs, but I can do this faster now.'

Klopp's model of introducing players is a slow burn and Fabinho followed the likes of Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before earning a starting spot. 

It seems the patient approach is paying off and Fabinho looks settled now, contributing with three tackles per game and even 0.8 chances a match despite a more withdrawn position. 

Liverpool have only conceded 20 goals in the Premier League this season and Fabinho's marshalling of midfield will continue to be vital in the four remaining games.  

Keita was regarded as the most exciting acquisition last year by many Liverpool fans and with good reason. 

He was a like a human pinball for RB Leipzig, scoring, laying on assists and possessing a nasty streak too, he looked the full package. 

But just a few months into his career on Merseyside there were reports of a return to the Bundesliga in the summer with Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund. 

He'd failed to nail down a place in the team, struggled with the language barrier and was yet to score a goal. Keita looked a shadow of the player he was in Germany but again Klopp showed patience and the green shoots of promise are now poking through. 

Naby Keita looks more confident now and was trusted to start against the Blues

Keita played predominantly in Chelsea's half in Liverpool's 2-0 win and was hungry for the ball

The box-to-box Guinean international scored his first goal for the club against Southampton in the 3-1 win and followed it up with another against Porto a few days later. 

No doubt an end to the goal drought has helped revive confidence and word from Melwood has always been that Keita can run rings around his team-mates in training. 

Sadio Mane warned: 'The real Naby is coming', and there has been a quiet confidence that the energetic midfielder will come good.

There is growing excitement that his recent form marks a step forward in his development and Klopp trusted him against one of the big six for the first time against Chelsea. 

Earlier in the season there was some defensive naivety and positional issues but those appear to have been ironed out. 

His heat map against Chelsea shows he played almost exclusively in their half and actively sought possession, a sure sign of confidence. If he turns into the player many think he can be, Liverpool will have a gem not just for the rest of this campaign but for years to come. 

Keita (right) scored his second goal in two games for Liverpool against Porto 

And the rest: 

Georginio Wijnaldum is the man who has suffered most by Keita's improved form and Henderson's revival. 

He was one of the first names on the team sheet earlier this season but could improve his output in terms of goals and assists, that's where Henderson has a definite edge at the moment.

James Milner will always provide a viable option and can ably deputise across the midfield three, though his injury against the Blues is a cause for concern. 

And of course there is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to come back in. He was hitting his straps when that brutal knee injury cruelly halted his progress last year. 

If he's anything like the player he was last season when he returns, Klopp will have a wealth of options to play with.

Georginio Wijnaldum has a fight on his hands to win back a place in the starting line-up


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