Having struggled to return from the shoulder injury that hampered him throughout much of last season, Joe Allen finds himself close making his return. Joining the first team in time for Newcastle alongside defender Glen Johnson might be a touch over-optimistic in Allen's case, but that he will at least be back in the conversation for West Brom a week later seems fairly certain, and the midfielder's looking forward to it.
"I've been pretty open, last year didn't quite go as well as I would have hoped," admitted Allen. "There were certain games and moments where I did well, [but] the key is to get that consistently. Fellow players have spoken to me about moving to a different club for the first time and it is the first time I have experienced that. That's out of the way now, so hopefully I'm a year on and a year more experienced because of that."
There will however be some question as to just where he fits in, with Steven Gerrard continuing to be deployed in a deeper role for the full ninety every match and Jordan Henderson having more than proved his worth in Allen's absence. For Allen's part, the player believes his chance might come in a more advanced role, pushing up the field to take on the kind of creative duties Liverpool's captain used to embrace.
"I can get involved more in the creative side, in assisting goals," he insisted. "That's a big thing. If I have the chance to play further forward, like I did in pre-season, goals are obviously another big one that I'd like to add a bit more to my game. It's something I felt was coming at Swansea, and last season sort of stopped [that] a little bit. That's something I think I can offer, looking forward."
With two goals in 39 appearances since arriving at Anfield, most fans are likely going to stick to a wait and see approach when it comes to the possibility of Allen as an attacking force, even if the player did show moments of promise in a more advanced role during the pre-season. Still, a role for Allen will have to be found somewhere in midfield, at least if Brendan Rodgers doesn't want his £15M first signing to go down as a Liverpool bust.
The injury that marred his first season at times can blind people to the fact that Allen started strongly following his move north from Swansea, and that in his time at the Welsh club he looked a player of huge promise. Still, he never looked wholly comfortable as the primary holding midfielder—a role filled by Leon Britton when both were at Swansea—and it remains difficult to imagine Rodgers altering his approach to Gerrard, who currently takes on what most would consider Allen's natural role.
It doesn't leave a lot of room for Allen, and it will be interesting to find out just what his manager does to make a bit of room for him, even if it's likely to be off the bench to start.