Before the weekend, Joe Allen's inclusion in a Wales squad set to face off against Scotland and Croatia over the next week raised more than a few eyebrows. Now, a few short days and one terrible 45-minute outing against Southampton later, Allen has pulled out. For almost anyone who's seen him play of late it has to less than entirely surprising, and it also almost certainly signals the end of the season for a player who has been suffering through a persistent shoulder issue since the autumn.
After manager Brendan Rodgers recently admitted Allen had been playing through pain and with decreased mobility since early in the season and that he would require surgery and a three-month layoff, it seemed only a matter of time until the issue would have to be dealt with, even if every sign was that Rodgers didn't want to face up to the reality. Saturday's embarrassing, disinterested loss to relegation-threatened Southampton and Allen's role in it appears to have made it clear even to the manager that waiting any longer isn't helping anybody.
Allen quite clearly is no longer fit to play, and since October his contributions have, with few outlying exceptions, grown steadily worse. It culminated in the ignominious half of football of display against Southampton on Saturday, one so poor it forced Lucas Leiva on to start the second half despite a niggle picked up ahead of the match. It also drew justifiable ire from fans wondering why the manager hadn't instead started with Jordan Henderson's motor in midfield in place of Allen's shredded shoulder.
Rodgers, clearly, has misjudged Allen's ability to make a positive impact for the side in recent months, and on Saturday that hurt both Liverpool's chances considerably as well as doing the player himself no favours whatsoever. Ahead of the match, though, Rodgers' confidence in Allen being able to perform despite the injury that has caused his play to suffer since October was so high that, when he spoke to Wales manager Chris Coleman ahead of last week's naming of the Welsh squad, he led Coleman to believe Allen would have no issues taking part in the internationals.
It appears, however, that the truth of Allen's situation cannot be denied any longer—or perhaps that the player himself is in so much discomfort that he can no longer deny it. The player he was at the start of the season isn't the one who has been on display since the autumn, and it's not due to fatigue or ability or a change of scenery, even if for some fans Allen's stock has plummeted on the back of his worsening performances. In the end it's thanks to a long-standing injury, one that should now, finally, be dealt with.
It may be months late, and it may have in the process helped to identify perhaps the most glaring problem in Rodgers' first season in charge at Liverpool, but Allen looks to finally be taking a step back from football for the necessary few months to get his shoulder tended. Hopefully he will now be able to return to action fully fit in time for pre-season in July. And Hopefully for Rodgers, as young and inexperienced a manager as many of his players are on the pitch, he will in the end be better for overseeing the whole unfortunate situation as well.
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