No conversation about the Reds and just what qualities Rodgers would be bringing to Anfield was complete without mentioning the manager’s "philosophy," something which took on almost mythical qualities as hopes that the new boss would suddenly turn a Liverpool side who had more in common with Bolton than Barcelona the previous season into world beaters this time around.
The poster boy for this fabled new way of playing was Joe Allen, the diminutive 22-year-old from Carmarthen in South Wales, who had shown in Rodgers’ Swansea City side that size doesn’t necessarily matter in the Premier League.
Allen had been a giant in that Swansea team, with his simple, yet elegant way of playing proving vital as Rodgers’ side impressed everyone during their maiden season in the top flight when―as was noted in the Anfield corridors of power―they managed to take four points off Liverpool and didn’t concede a goal against the Reds.
Key to Allen’s performances for Swansea was his relationship with Leon Britton, the fulcrum of the Swans’ side and the player who allowed those in front of him to go forward and stamp their authority on a match.
When Allen switched to Anfield, it was thought that he’d establish the same kind of relationship with Lucas Leiva in the Liverpool midfield, but then, the Brazilian injured a thigh in the warm up before the Reds’ first home league game of the season against Manchester City, eventually being forced off five minutes into the match, leaving Rodgers and Allen with a problem.
The upshot of it is that the Welshman has been the deepest lying of the Reds’ three midfielders all the way up until Leiva’s return from injury in the win over Southampton earlier this month. Like Liverpool’s, the results have been mixed.
When the Reds have played well, Allen has tended to play well, too, with his constant passing and probing helping to set the stage for the likes of Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling―often only Suarez and Sterling―to shine ahead of him.
In recent weeks, there has been somewhat of a lethargy apparent in Allen’s game, though, something backed up by his early withdrawals from the Southampton and West Ham wins―the only times he hasn’t completed 90 minutes in the Premier League this season―and by Rodgers lamenting that he doesn’t have a big enough squad to be able to give the midfielder and Sterling a rest (Daily Mail).
With Jordan Henderson and Nuri Sahin available to call upon, as well as Leiva’s return to fitness, you could suggest that the Reds boss does have the personnel available to allow him to give Allen a breather from time to time, and perhaps that will happen more and more in the new year, especially now that Henderson appears to have found favour with the manager after seeming to be on his way out.
Going forward, what will become important for Allen will be exactly that―going forward.
With Leiva, hopefully fit and available for some time yet, Allen will be charged with breaking into the box and adding a goal threat to his game which simply hasn’t been there yet. He scored four times for Swansea in the Premier League last season but hasn’t really gone close once for Liverpool in this campaign.
That has been largely to do with his position in the team, of course, but whilst he might need a rest now and again in the new year, it is now simply up to him to put his own stamp on his time at the club.
Having arrived at Liverpool already fully aware that he has got the complete backing and the complete faith of his manager, Allen now perhaps needs to do a little more to get the fans and the amateur philosophers on his side.
He may have helped ease Liverpool in to their manager’s way of playing, but Allen’s greatest contributions should be yet to come.