Joe Allen arrived at Liverpool for an outsized transfer fee. Manager Brendan Rodgers didn’t help expectations when he compared the young Welsh midfielder with Barcelona maestro Xavi. Put together, expectations were sky high and Allen sadly has never really looked like measuring up to them.
He hasn’t been a bad player for Liverpool. He’s been a useful squad player; a rotation utility midfielder. He just hasn’t been a £15M signing. And that Welsh Xavi label has turned into something of an unkind joke at his expense. The 25-year-old, though, is experiencing something of a renaissance under Jürgen Klopp.
Rodgers often set Allen out deep, where he looked a pale imitation of Lucas Leiva. Klopp by comparison has pushed him higher up the pitch, and Allen has responded with a series of strong showings, capped by a man of the match performance against Stoke City in the League Cup and a late equalizer against Arsenal.
"If you’re behind and you’re coming on, you’ve got to throw a little caution to the wind and gamble," Allen said following his impact appearance on Wednesday night. "I was running onto it and just tried to get anything on it—thankfully it ended up in the back of the net. It was a nice feeling to come on and make an impact."
After sitting out against Exeter along with most of the other senior players, some thought Allen’s star turn in the previous game against Stoke would have earned him the start against Arsenal. In the end it didn’t, but it would be a surprise following his late contribution not to see him get one against Manchester United.
Allen has quietly been one of Liverpool’s best since Jürgen Klopp arrived in the autumn, and with Philippe Coutinho out injured and Liverpool looking at their best when Roberto Firmino is pushed into a striker role in place of the struggling Christian Benteke, there appears an opening in the ten role for the taking.
It’s not the role he was bought for, and under Rodgers the suggestion he fill it against an opponent like United would have been met with raised eyebrows at best. Since Klopp has arrived, though—and especially over the past week-and-a-half—he has shown he deserves the chance against United this weekend.
"Those games are always great occasions, games you want to be involved in as professionals and look forward to," he said when asked about Liverpool’s next opponents. "Hopefully we can use the little bit of momentum we’ve had to kick-start that game off, and hopefully we can take three points instead of one."