Joe Allen didn't have a great first half against Rubin Kazan in Thursday's Europa League game, but Liverpool fans will be surprised to discover the reason as to why the Welshman was substituted at half time. It appears that his performance wasn't why Lucas Leiva replaced Allen to play as the deepest midfielder in a three-man midfield.
"It was a disappointing one really," Allen said on his substitution in Jürgen Klopp's first home game as Liverpool manager. "I got booked. The manager explained it was nothing to do with the performance. With them going down to 10 men and being on a yellow, it was inevitable. I felt good while I was on the pitch and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to get out there and give a good performance."
Allen has been a good egg since he moved from Swansea City in 2012 and started his time on Merseyside with some wonderful performances. He has never looked like a player who was unaware of needing to give more, but his words don't really connect with the reality that he was one of the worst players in the opening 45 minutes.
Of course he'll look forward to playing more under Klopp, but there will be more early substitutions with performances of a similar quality to what was served up on Thursday. Injuries don't help consistency, and further to this, can Allen shine playing in a deeper midfield position? Some would also question whether he has the capacity to shine in a midfield position that suits him best anyway.
Still, Allen rued the lack of luck the home side possessed in a push for victory. There's nothing better than the double punishment of having an opposition player sent off and scoring directly from a resulting penalty or free-kick, which is what enabled Liverpool to enter half time on level terms. That was enough fortune for Liverpool with an entire second half to find a winner, but "that's how it goes" according to the footballing philosopher.
"We had plenty of shots at goal, but not as many on target as we would have liked," the Welsh midfield metronome added. "With them going down to 10 men we would have hoped to go on to win the game comfortably. But credit to them – they made it difficult. But there are certainly positives to take. We’ve got to take it on ourselves in situations like that to really take the game to them and make them work hard, and get the breakthroughs.
"We got to the final third well enough and looked to get into good positions but it just didn’t quite happen. We hit the post. On another day, a little bit more luck and it would have been quite comfortable. But that’s how it goes."
Joe Allen seems ideally suited for the way Jürgen Klopp likes his teams to play; and with greater consistency and better luck with injuries, he could be a useful player for an exacting manager.