Savage – “Allen has stepped up and is playing his best football since he joined Liverpool”…
BBC Sport pundit Robbie Savage has lavished praise on Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen, praising the influence the Welshman has had on Brendan Rodgers’ side during his extended run in the team.
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Writing as part of his regular column, Savage compared Allen to Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick, before claiming that the duo – also known as ‘the invisible men’ – would play a decisive role in today’s game.
“The biggest compliment I can pay Joe Allen is that, if he maintains his current form, he could become Liverpool’s answer to Michael Carrick,” he said.
“By that I mean Allen becoming more than just a quiet, effective midfielder who doesn’t always get noticed but does a decent job sitting in front of his defence.
“Carrick also rarely makes the headlines, but he has a calming effect on his team-mates because he is always available for them when they are in possession and helps them to flourish.”
Savage also backed Allen to keep his place for the match at Anfield, despite the return from injury of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva – who came back to training earlier this week.
He continued: “While Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva have been out injured, Allen has stepped up and is playing his best football since he joined Liverpool from Swansea in the summer of 2012.
“Gerrard played well when he came back from his hamstring problem as a substitute in Monday’s win over Swansea but this weekend is the chance for Reds boss Brendan Rodgers to make a huge statement about Allen.
“In the past, it would have been the easy option for Rodgers to bring Gerrard straight back in to face United but Allen’s performances have not made that decision so straightforward this time.
“Allen has been so good that he deserves to keep his place and, if he does, then it will only increase his stature at the club.”
The former Leicester City and Derby County midfielder even back-tracked on his previous comments about the Welshman, admitting that he was wrong to label the player a ‘miss’ when he ranked Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool signing prior to Christmas.
“I labelled Allen a ‘miss’ when I rated Liverpool’s signings under Brendan Rodgers before Christmas because, at that stage, he had been disappointing,” he explained.
“I felt he was under-achieving rather than a failure, though. He was not first-choice and he did not look as if he felt he belonged in the team.
“Yes, he was always tidy in possession but he cost £15m and did not look capable of bossing a midfield. That is not the case now, as he showed in last month’s win over Manchester City for example.
“Why is he playing better? Well for a start, he is playing regularly. I know from experience what it is like knowing you will be dropped as soon as other players return to fitness.
“Before now, he has probably gone into games thinking ‘even if I play well, I am going to be left out next week’. It is completely different when injuries mean you know you will get a run of matches and start to think you are going to keep your place.
“Allen has just played four consecutive league games for the first time this season, and he will be buzzing about the way he has played.”
And he closed by suggesting that the player nicknamed ‘the Welsh Xavi’ could now go on to become more than just a ‘link man’ – explaining that he could now start to push forward and create more chances.
“Liverpool’s 3-4-3 system has helped Allen improve too, because he has the job of linking their defence and attack and is seeing more of the ball in the deeper areas that suit him,” revealed Savage.
“Allen is clearly playing an important role but I still think there is more to come from him.”