Joe Allen has lauded the strength of the Liverpool squad, and insists the days of relying on any one player have vanished in recent months.
When Luis Suarez was suspended for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April, not only did it end his 2012-13 season in April, but it also forced him out of the opening five games of the current campaign. Many pundits believed this would hinder the Reds early progress, but they only lost once as Brendan Rodgers’ side collected 10 points.
The Uruguayan forward has, of course, been back in the fold since September, and has scored 22 goals in as many appearances. And although he has now gone four Premier league matches without finding the back of the net, this hasn’t stopped his team-mates stepping up to the plate to maintain their push for a top-four finish.
Long before Suarez arrived on Merseyside, there were suggestions that Liverpool were over reliant on Steven Gerrard. However, whilst the England international still has a big influence on the club, he is no longer considered to be as vital to the first team as he once was, particularly with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson around.
Indeed, competition at Anfield is more intense than it has been for some time. One player who is by no means guaranteed a place in the starting XI is Allen, who was signed from Swansea City in 2012 for a fee of £15million. The 23-year-old has so far failed to find his best form for the Reds, although his progress has been hindered by injury.
The midfielder has recently returned from a groin injury, and he has featured in three of their four Premier League fixtures this month. And although the Wales international is hoping to have more of an influence in the remaining 11 fixtures, he is also more than happy to accept the competition for a starting berth, something he feels he has a chance of due to the fact that nobody in Rodgers’ squad is guaranteed a place.
“Yes it does get harder and harder to get into the first team, but that can only be a good thing,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “That’s something that’s been great this season, the competition for places. Stevie’s been playing fantastic in recent weeks but also we were able to cope when he wasn’t in the team. When Luis (Suarez) was missing at the start of the season we coped with that. That’s the difference this season.”
Allen played 27 times in the Premier League during his debut season at Liverpool, and has 14 to his name this time round. The Reds continue their quest for UEFA Champions League qualification on Saturday evening, when they travel to Southampton. A win for the visitors would give them a nine-point advantage over fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who are in action on Sunday afternoon when Cardiff City visit White Hart Lane.