We've taken a brief hiatus from the Joe Allen love-in--he's continued to do very well in covering for Lucas and been a figure of consistency in a midfield whose personnel and performance level has otherwise fluctuated to this point in the season. Talking about the quality of his displays typically involves highlighting many of the same points; confidence on the ball, good positional sense, excellent timing in the tackle, and a passing accuracy percentage that's among the league leaders.
Those things don't make him the apple of everyone's eye, though, and a few weeks ago Alan Shearer took aim at the midfielder, criticizing his lack of forward movement and attacking influence as huge areas of weakness. In a side with little support from the midfield over the past two seasons it's an otherwise fair critique, but when focused on a midfielder who's been asked to deputize in a holding role until Lucas returns, it was a misguided and ignorant argument to be making.
Shearer's point has been a talking point for many Liverpool supporters since it was made, with most dismissing the comments as another example of the longtime Newcastle and England striker's ineptitude as a pundit, and a small minority voicing some sort of agreement. Former Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann falls in a category with the former, as he rebuffed Shearer's statements over the weekend:
"Shearer wouldn't know about passing a ball because all he did was finish. He did a good job of putting it in the net but he never needed to pass a ball backwards or sideways. It's rubbish to say Joe Allen only makes easy passes. You need players who keep the team ticking over and ensure that you keep possession. What he has done for the football club so far has been great. I'm not sure any other player would have had the impact he's had.
"The way Allen has performed has softened the blow of losing Lucas. With the way they play, you need someone like Allen sitting in front of the back four. Then you have five players in front of him whose responsibility it is to try to create things. The fans are talking about Allen and rightly so because he's been outstanding. Shearer's remarks won't make me change my mind."
Hamann's been a vocal supporter of Brendan Rodgers since the manager arrived, and his feelings towards Allen, who was Rodgers' second signing of the summer, have been consistent as well. Joe Allen isn't an attacking force, and he's not going to be someone who gets a ton of goals or creates a high number of chances. Those aren't a big part of what he does, and while criticism about the absence of attacking quality in his game might be accurate, it's also not what he's been asked to do for the squad.
As Hamann says, Liverpool need someone to keep play ticking along, pick possession up from the back, and make sure that there's a stable point from which they can regroup. Allen ticks all those boxes, and it's up to Rodgers and the rest of his squad to fill in the missing pieces from there.