Depending on how you feel about narratives, passes that don't move directly toward the opposition goal, and 23 year olds that are possibly washed up, Joe Allen's display on Saturday at Anfield will have either left you full of encouragement or confused and upset as what all the fuss was about. For a player who spends so much of his time doing the in-between work, it's interesting to see that the sentiment directed toward him is so often black or white--a useless, unambitious, and overpriced sideways passer, or a player that could very well prove to be one of the missing pieces for a Liverpool midfield that's often looked disjointed.
So that's settled. More accurately, and perceived nepotism aside, Brendan Rodgers' comments earlier in the week seemed to best capture a more level-headed approach to a player that so often operates in the gray:
"He showed in the first three months of last season the level which he's at. I'm sure he will get back to that level given games...In fairness to him, he didn't set the price we paid for him. That was something that was in a contract and had to be paid if we wanted him. What I do know is that Joe is a big talent. He may not be your superhero, goal-scoring midfield player but he's a continuity player. He will always work 100%, he's dynamic in his movements, he can retain the ball, he offers the team a great platform to build the game and he will chip in with a goal."
And, true to his manager's words, Joe Allen did plenty to create continuity in Liverpool's 4-1 win over West Ham on Saturday afternoon, turning in a man of the match performance by doing all the little things right. Passing, pressuring, tackling, running--he did everything that was asked of him, often without fireworks or exclamation points, and almost always to the benefit of those around him. More confident than Jordan Henderson in attack and more positionally aware than Steven Gerrard, he was the tonic for a midfield that's missed exactly what he provides.
Which, as Brendan Rodgers points out, will rarely be spectacular. But if Saturday is any indication of what he's going to provide moving forward (and barring fitness concerns that interrupted similar inspiration at the start of last season), that's just fine.
Video by MrBoywunder