Joe Allen is a player who has yet to convince every Liverpool fan of his ability, since signing for £15m from Swansea in the summer of 2012.
Even his most ardent fan would have to accept that his 64 appearances for the Reds to date have been typically neat and tidy but far from memorable.
In Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Southampton at Anfield, however, the 24-year-old’s 62nd-minute introduction helped reignite Brendan Rodgers’ side, at a time when the score was 1-1 and the visitor’s were looking the more likely winners.
He replaced Lucas, and the difference the Welshman made in comparison to his teammate highlighted both how far the Brazilian has fallen, and how effective Allen can be.
Whereas the Reds had previously been extremely one-paced in midfield, with Lucas and Steven Gerrard both lacking the legs to get forward, Allen made attacking thrusts, produced incisive passes and offered movement Lucas seemed utterly incapable of.
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) August 18, 2014
Liverpool enjoyed improved amounts of possession when he come on, after Southampton had enjoyed easily the better of things in the second-half up until that point, and they looked far more fluent and dangerous in the process.
Joe Allen, once again very good and showing exactly what he offers with and without the ball.
— James Fishlock (@JimFish286) August 17, 2014
When Liverpool face champions Man City at the Etihad next Monday, Rodgers simply has to select Allen ahead of Lucas if he wants to get anything from the game.
City’s midfield is extremely dynamic and powerful- a potential trio of Yaya Toure, Fernando and Fernandinho in the middle of the park is pretty fearsome- and if both Gerrard and Lucas are selected again they will be completely outrun.
Allen’s energy and creativity alongside Henderson, with Gerrard sat in his customary deep-lying role, gives the side a far better balance in comparison to the Southampton game.
Although the Wales international may not look the most physically imposing player around, particularly compared to the likes of Toure and Fernando, he will get stuck in and is stronger than some give him credit for. In that respect he is not dissimilar to Raheem Sterling.
Joe Allen has made a difference for Liverpool, darting forward with the ball and passing more constructively than Lucas.
— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) August 17, 2014
There are some Liverpool fans who it appears will never be totally convinced by Allen, no matter how well he plays. He is a player who divides opinion, which is perhaps because his strengths as a player aren’t quite as noticeable and eye-catching as someone like Gerrard.
Bring on Can for Allen, seriously, he's already in contention for the golden rubbish bin. #frenchfrylegs
— Anfield Banter (@anfield_banter) August 17, 2014
He is a very intelligent footballer, making space for others and producing passes that don’t earn the praise of a 60 yard ball but can be just as effective.
Admittedly he does need to start making a bigger impact on games on a consistent basis, and just three goals for the club is not good enough for someone of his ability. It’s easy to forget that he’s still only 24 though, and he will come good.
With Gerrard clearly not getting any younger, Lucas surely on his last legs, Adam Lallana injured and Emre Can needing time to adjust to life in the Premier League, this could be the season where Allen becomes far more of a key player at Anfield.
Many of us were foolish enough to write off Henderson a few years ago, whether we like to admit it or not, and there is every chance Allen could silence the doubters in the same way his teammate has.
Starting him for the City game in place of Lucas is paramount, and if he is given a decent run in the side, he can grow in a Liverpool shirt and repay the huge amount of faith Rodgers has shown in him.