Death by football was Brendan Rodgers' calling card. Death by football was Joe Allen's niche. Death by football was, as it turns out, not a particularly great fit for a transitional year, and it's even less great when compared to the types of attacking displays Liverpool have managed since discovering that they're capable of using a flamethrower instead of a metronome.
And for now that's perfectly fine, especially since it appears that Rodgers is finding a way to implement some subtlety to go along with the blunt-force trauma Liverpool have inflicted on the likes of Spurs, Everton, and Arsenal. Defensive improvements are top of the grocery list for now, and using Allen in place of Raheem Sterling at Southampton appeared to be a step in that direction--the offensive firepower was toned down in favor of more control in the midfield, especially in the second half, and the Welsh midfielder was among Liverpool's best down the stretch.
That clarified Allen's role in the squad as it stands; he's not going to be lighting anything on fire anytime soon, but he can and will be used to great effect as an adaptable, substance-over-style midfielder when control rather than chaos is needed. For a player whose place had come under question earlier in the season that has to be comforting, and it's allowed for increased hope in both himself and the squad:
"We can all dream and performances like the one at Southampton are only going to bring that dream closer I guess. As players, we are focused on every game and we want to keep churning out wins. Who knows what will happen between now and May? There is certainly a belief that we can beat any team.
"We went into the international break with a great three points and we are looking forward to coming back and keeping this run going. Everyone has been open about the fact you always aim as high as you possibly can. I think teams are certainly starting to realise we are ones to look out for."
Liverpool would need a little bit of help to achieve the aim of a title this season, with Chelsea the frontrunners after their 4-0 win over Spurs on Saturday and City sitting on three games in hand. But as Liverpool are the ones to look out for, and while it's still largely due to their explosiveness up front, Allen's re-emergence is going to help, as are the imminent returns of Lucas and Mamadou Sakho.
And, above all, there's that word again--belief.