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Gerrard injury hands Liverpool’s £15m man chance to shine

Allen has the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong in skipper's absence

Joe Allen will never be a player comparable in style with Steven Gerrard, but the Liverpool captain’s hamstring injury has handed his team-mate a chance to continue his recent resurgence.

Football can work in strange ways. It is barely two weeks since Allen’s glaring miss against Everton in the Merseyside seemed symbolic of his struggles to adapt to life at Anfield.

But Allen has responded with two performances against NorwichCity and West Ham United which will have reminded many why Brendan Rodgers paid SwanseaCity £15 million for him.

Allen was one of Liverpool’s standout performers against the Hammers, dictating the match with smart play on the ball and an impressive work-rate off it.

In Rodgers’ words: “Joe’s mobility, his fluency in possession and that constant movement to get on the ball, it knits the game together for you, and that is what allows Suarez to make his runs.”

With Gerrard’s hamstring injury set to keep him out until the New Year, Allen is set for a run of games in central midfield and a chance to really make his mark on this emerging Liverpool side.

Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, depending on Allen’s point of view – Liverpool’s next four league games could hardly be tougher, beginning with this weekend’s journey south to play Spurs at White Hart Lane, a ground where Liverpool have lost on each of their last six visits.

Allen was excellent in possession against West Ham, and will need to repeat that performance against Spurs, most likely alongside Lucas Leiva, a player who himself has answered his critics.

With Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas playing a three-man central midfield which could include the likes of Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Sandro, it will be a physical battle in the middle of the park, one which Allen’s physical attributes are not necessarily suited to.

The home match against CardiffCity on December 21 should be a more routine test for the Reds, and a contest to which Allen’s flighty, dynamic style is well-suited. But the following games at ManchesterCity and Chelsea could emerge as season-defining contests.

They are contests in which Liverpool will undoubtedly miss their skipper. But in his absence Allen has a chance to stake his own claim for a regular starting place in Rodgers’ midfield.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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