Recent Premier League statistics do not reflect kindly on Joe Allen.
The Welshman arrived at Anfield in a deal worth £15m at the start of last season. He came with a reputation as a quality player on the ball, defensively-minded but one capable of dictating play from central midfield in his role alongside Steven Gerrard.
Allen made 42 appearances for club and country during his first campaign, before he underwent an operation on a shoulder injury which ruled him out from March onwards.
He has struggled to work his way back into the set-up this season, appearing only four times so far, although it is notable that in those four games, Liverpool have conceded just once.
Part of the reason for his continued exclusion is the emergence of Lucas Leiva over the last 18 months as a vital cog in Liverpool’s central midfield. Lucas has (largely) cut out the careless errors and flustered style that made him such a frustrating player of his early years at the club.
Lucas and Gerrard, who is playing increasingly deep in midfield as the years roll by, have effectively made that central midfield their own, and Allen must be patient.
For his part, Allen is happy to bide his time. In an interview with Liverpool’s official website this week, he said: 'The more you get back out on the pitch, the more things will start to flow properly again. I can't wait to get my chance.'
The problem may be that with Liverpool on such a fine run of form, Rodgers could be reluctant to make to many changes. Lucas has featured in nine of Liverpool’s 11 Premier League games so far, while Gerrard has played a part in all of them.
Allen, after arriving on such a wave of optimism, has become third-choice. He suffers somewhat from being one of Liverpool’s least ‘dynamic’ players, far less eye-catching than Gerrard, whose raking, 30-yard passes are a useful way of helping switch the play.
His role is a largely destructive one, and as a result his contribution can often be overlooked. In many ways it is a similar problem which plagues Manchester United’s Michael Carrick.
But at 24, Allen will know that he needs first-team football if he is to fulfil the potential he showed at SwanseaCity and his early days at Liverpool. Whether he gets it at Liverpool remains to be seen.
image: © nathan17