The past few weeks Liverpool have been without Joe Allen, Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge because of injury, but with the Premier League re-opening this weekend all three are set to make a return. This is of course a massive thing for Liverpool because of the influence these players can have on games, especially Sturridge and Allen.
Daniel Sturridge has not played since the Spurs game in August and now has a lot of pressure on him to come back and immediately start producing the goods, something he has done before after injuries. Last season he faced a lengthy lay off and proceeded to go on one of the best goalscoring runs of the Premier League era, equalling Ruud Van Nistelrooys record of eight games in a row. Now we are all expecting him to do the same, I would not be surprised if he did either. Sturridge has a natural instinct in front of goal and he will always find space to create an opportunity for himself or make space for a team-mate. That is what Sturridge does.
What excites me most about the return of Sturridge is the impact it will have on Mario Balotelli. Balotelli has struggled in the lone striker role because he is not the best at picking up the pockets of space that perhaps a Luis Suarez or a Daniel Sturridge do so well. Sturridge will help him do that by drawing defenders away with his runs. Take the Spurs game for example, Balotelli could have had two goals in the first 10 minutes alone because of the movements he made. Sturridge went one way and Balotelli went the other, it may seem simple but it is the simple partnerships that are most effective in modern football. One thing is for sure Liverpool have missed the influence of Daniel Sturridge on the pitch and when he returns to the side the whole team will be boosted.
I will only comment a little bit on the return of Emre Can, a player whom fans seem to have already placed a lot of faith in. Can said in an interview that he has not played a lot of football this season but he is confident he can find form when he comes back.
“It’s been frustrating but that’s what happens in football and you have to get on with it. I’m confident I can come back stronger from this.
“I should be fit and available for the QPR game but of course whether I play any part in that game is down to the coach and how I get on in the training sessions next week.
“I’ve only played about 50 minutes in total but my initial impression about the Premier League is that there is much more tempo to the games here compared to Germany.”
I want to analyse some of Emre Cans key stats just so we understand what Can will bring and where he is most effective, because our fans seem to be at loggerheads. Some say he is best at the base of the diamond and other he is best played on the sides. According to whoscored.com Can was at his best when he was played at the base of a midfield trio as a holding midfielder at Bayern Leverkusen, and I have to concur. Can won more tackles, created more chances on average and had a higher pass succession rate playing in that role, and it suits his style of play. Can is physical and can push aside any player with his brute strength but he can also skip past players in the same manner of Yaya Toure – the sort of player we want him to become – Can is wasted on the sides of the diamond because he loses half of his impact.
And finally for the most important player of the returning trio in my opinion, Joe Allen. Allen contributes so much to the dynamic of our team that when he is not in the side you start to notice what he brings to the team, yet when he is in the team nobody appreciates his qualities. Allen proved in the games against Manchester City and Tottenham that he is not daunted by players who are physically stronger than him because he has such tactical intelligence he can control a game, which for 30 minutes at the Etihad he did.
Allen’s defensive contributions is what makes him so important, his reading of the game is brilliant and his tackles are genuinenly important. But it is the pressing side of his game we miss. At the back end of last season a feature of our game was the frantic need to press for the ball until we got it back. Allen and Henderson were key components of that, and this year we have only had half of that duo. With Allen back I think QPR will have a massive problem on their hands because Allen really does make it his mission to make his team have the ball. Joe Allen is Brendan Rodgers midfield masterpiece, he is not the perfect player by any means, but under his tutelage Allen has developed into a very gifted player.
When we line-up against QPR Brendan Rodgers will have as close to the full complement he has had all season since the game away against Spurs and I must say I expect it to pay off. Expect the electric displays from last season to return very shortly.