After a very promising start, Joe Allen's form fell away worryingly. Now he looks to the Europa League for redemption.
When Joe Allen first signed for Liverpool Football Club, it's fair to say that the reaction to his arrival was mixed. The vast majority of even-handed, vaguely-knowledgeable folk, however, welcomed the arrival of a player who had been consistently excellent on his debut Premier League campaign, even if the 15 million pound fee caused some uneasy brow-wrinkling.
As our season began, in all it's schizophrenic glory, Allen's imperious ball-retention and distribution was one of the few reliable facets of the team. There has been much revisionism, on the back of his recent poor displays, but the reality of the story is that Allen started 12/13 like a train—a very careful, not-coughing-up-passengers type of train.
This is modern football, alas, and the memories of some of those that are loudest in their support of LFC, are puzzlingly brief. Unquestionably, there has been a frightening drop in Allen's form over the last 8-10 weeks. He looks nervous, weak in possession and has lost that incisiveness in the top third which made him such a threat in the early games.
It is encouraging, then, to hear his latest interview in the lead-up to Thursday's match against Zenit St. Petersburg. In it he openly admitted that his form "hasn't been great" and that he sees the Europa League game as a chance to "stake a claim," telling LFCTV that he was "looking forward to working hard and trying to turn things around a little bit."
Allen speaks in the careful, media-savvy tones one would expect from a seasoned lieutenant of Rodgers' armies but it is also worth noting that he is a young man who has fallen out of favour with the most dominant influence of his brief professional career. If we can still talk about the value of confidence to veterans like Stewart Downing, then how much more applicable is that in relation to the Welshman?
Allen told the press of how the entire squad was "bitterly disappointed" in the wake of the defeat to West Bromwich Albion and that the hostile atmosphere in the Petrovsky Stadium will be "tough to perform in." There cannot be many of us who do not wish to see Joe Allen rise to the challenge and reclaim a first team spot.