by Dave Usher
Last week I wrote that this latest international break might actually work in Liverpool's favour. No sooner had that article been published, news filtered through that an injury to Dejan Lovren had forced the defender to withdraw from the Croatia squad and return to Merseyside for further treatment. Me and my big mouth, eh!
Lovren's injury notwithstanding, it's not been a bad couple of weeks for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, despite all the nonsense concerning Raheem Sterling. All being well, the Reds' boss should be able to welcome back a number of players from injury, either for Sunday's trip to Queens Park Rangers or for Real Madrid's mouth-watering visit to Anfield three days later. One of those hopefully returning to action will be Joe Allen, a player whose stock has risen by the week since he was injured while playing on an artificial pitch for Wales in Andorra in early September.
Absence has certainly made the heart grow fonder in the case of the former Swansea man, whose worth to the Reds has never been appreciated by supporters as much it has been this past month or so. His return should help to restore some kind of normality to Liverpool's midfield and hopefully trigger a return to something that at least resembles the style we saw from Rodgers' men last year.
Liverpool have often looked like a team without an identity this season. Last year their identity was clear; they played fast, aggressive, high-tempo football both with and without the ball and more often than not it proved to be far too much for opponents to deal with. Allen's intelligent and uncomplicated use of the ball allied to his relentless pressing of opponents certainly contributed to some of those memorable displays, as it allowed Liverpool to dominate possession and win the ball back high up the pitch, giving the forwards the platform to then do their thing.
In some respects this current group probably need to forge a new identity as replicating last year without the man who made a lot of it possible is an impossible task. However, there are some aspects of what made Liverpool so formidable last year that can be retained -- even without Luis Suarez -- and having Allen and Daniel Sturridge available again should go a long way towards getting them at least somewhere close to what they were. The timing couldn't be better either as this is an exciting period coming up for the club as they will play a gruelling seven games in a 21-day period.
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