Joe Allen's season has been a microcosm of Liverpool's. With inconsistency stemming from injury, and the subsequent form fluctuation that often comes with recovery, the Wales international has still managed to provide some heartening performances under Jürgen Klopp.
And with Liverpool's central midfield ranks depleted by injury and suspension, it is time for Allen to make his mark on the season.
With the season not yet over, Allen has notched up twenty-six appearances across all competitions. Nearly half of those appearances have been made from the substitutes bench, Allen has only actually gone a full ninety minutes five times this year. While Klopp has been using the player sparingly, it hasn't been Allen's bad performances that have convinced him to do so.
An easy fit as a defensive force on the press, Klopp has deployed Allen as his central midfielding cooler in the second half of games. His calming impact on Liverpool's possessional game paling in comparison to the off the ball work Allen has been getting through. There he has truly been effervescent, harrying opponents at a rate of just over seven tackles per 90.
These numbers are admittedly skewed by the moments in the game that Allen gets to come in, as well as the overall small sample size. But even accounting for that, those are some ridiculous numbers from Wee Joe.
Allen's traditionally recognized strength on the pass is there as always, where Allen is linking up with his teammates at a rate of nearly 110 passes per 90. His play further forward has been markedly more purposeful, and Klopp has shown his intent at teasing out the attacking play from the #24 by pushing him further forward, even into wide attacking midfield positions.
What needs to happen now, then, is for Allen to maintain his fitness, maintain his intensity, and find the swagger to impose himself on these games. For a guy who has excellent tough and technique in tight spaces, Allen never feels completely comfortable being the man making the final play on goal.
For a guy who constantly tracks the chaos going on around him, there can still be that half a moment's hesitation at the critical moment for the guy. It's these fine margins that separate good from very good, and very good from great.
Thankfully, Liverpool don't need Allen to be great. No, what Liverpool need from Allen is merely great form at a critical time in the season. They need him to slot right in next to James Milner tomorrow and ensure Gianelli Imbula's afternoon at Anfield is a sour one. He needs to play the skillful, intelligent, snappy foil for the majestic Emre Can when the German comes back from his suspension. He needs to play progressively as he pushes forward to link midfield and attack if he finds himself in a defensive minded double pivot with Lucas Leiva.
A goal or two wouldn't hurt, either.
This is all stuff that we've know Allen to be capable of doing. It's the sort of stuff that will convince Liverpool to give him a nice fat contract to stick around and be a piece of Klopp's revolution over the next year or so. It's the sort of stuff Allen would purportedly be keen to demonstrate if he rejects a Liverpool stay in search of more starting minutes.
Joe Allen's Liverpool story is not quite told, and this spell of upcoming games present a chance for the player to write a few chapters of real quality. For Hendo, Joe, for Jürgy, Do it for Wales and Red pandas everywhere. Do it for shaggy beards and Alice banded locks. And, above all, do it for Chicken & Egg Issue No. 12.