One area that the current Liverpool side is thin on is the central midfield. Currently Steven Gerrard and Lucas occupy those slots and more recently we saw Jordan Henderson come in for the suspended Lucas against Crystal Palace. Brendan Rodgers, has shown that he prefers to start with Gerrard and Lucas but when either of those two are not available we have some reshuffling to do and our depth is not that great in those positions.
Henderson performed very well against Palace in the central midfield as he had been used to being deployed in the right wing back role in the 3-5-2 formation. You can almost be sure that when Glen Johnson returns from injury he will slot in at the right back position meaning that Henderson will now be tussling it out with Gerrard and Lucas for a starting berth in midfield.
Many fans and pundits have been saying that Liverpool’s central midfield is their biggest weakness right now as the Gerrard and Lucas combo has not really gotten firing for one reason or the other. Lucas offers very little attacking threat and his defensive abilities have come into question as he gives away too many freekicks and picks up untimely bookings. Gerrard on the other hand is not the Gerrard of 2005 who goes out all guns blazing but is now a more toned down player who rarely ventures forward. Surely one of the two central midfielders has to try venture forward and contribute in the attacking half of the field.
One player who may prove to be the solution for Liverpool’s central midfield is Joe Allen. Many may have forgotten about him due to his injuries but the Welshman is now fighting fit and ready to compete for a place in the Liverpool side.
When Allen arrived from Swansea a season ago, he was dubbed the Welsh Xavi due to his passing attributes and ability to hold onto the ball. He started off his Liverpool career well but then seemed to go off the boil in the second half of the season and he eventually got injured. This is meant to be Allen’s breakthrough season as he has now had a season to bed in at Liverpool and shrug off the big money price tag he joined Liverpool for. Many forget that Allen is still only 23-years old and has probably not reached his peak yet.
What Joe Allen needs is more game time and confidence to play his natural game which is passing the ball well. Last term, Rodgers had asked Allen to start defending more and play as a defensive midfielder when Lucas was out injured and that did not work at all. Now with Lucas back, Allen can focus on passing and attacking rather than purely defending.
The 3-5-2 formation may be beneficial to Allen as he could come in and play in the 10 position which Coutinho should be occupying if he were not injured. Allen has a great eye for a pass and would thrive in feeding balls to the feet of Suarez and Sturridge whilst Gerrard and Lucas protect behind him.
When Coutinho does come back, Allen may be forced to drop deeper to accommodate the Brazilian and that could mean Allen filling in for Gerrard when he is injured or in need of a rest.
Many fans may have forgotten about Allen and written him off but he still has a big part to play for Liverpool and I am sure Brendan Rodgers knows that. The Liverpool manager will do all he can to bring Allen up to speed and show the faithful that he indeed did make a good signing by bring in the Welshman.