Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Rodgers looking for more from Allen

Joe Allen, left, excelled on Saturday
Joe Allen, left, excelled on Saturday

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is hopeful a rejuvenated Joe Allen can help his side challenge for the top four this season.

The Wales international was the Reds' best player in the first half of Steven Gerrard's 2-0 testimonial win at Anfield against Olympiacos and could have had a hat-trick in the first half.

In the end he had to settle for one, sliding home Iago Aspas' low cross from five yards, but he displayed some of the desire to get into attacking areas which persuaded Rodgers to spend £15million in order to get former club Swansea to release him last summer.

Twelve months ago he began well, albeit playing in a deeper role, but his performances tailed off as a shoulder problem became more troublesome and eventually forced him to end the campaign prematurely in order to have surgery.

"The first three month of last season Joe was our best player by a mile but he had a problem with his shoulder which curtailed his season," said the Reds boss.

"It meant he could not have that aggressive streak which is part of his game.

"Joe has been terrific over the course of pre-season and he did very well.

"It is important we have a real strong competitive group as we are trying to build the depth of the group so that I can change the team in games and when we go to play against certain teams I can change the team about."

Substitute Jordan Henderson scored Liverpool's other goal just seconds after coming off the bench as Gerrard saw two of his fellow midfielders take up the goalscoring responsibility.

The Reds captain, celebrating 15 years in the first team, has had to shoulder the responsibility for driving the team forward for years but he is looking forward to being able to share the load in the latter years of his career.

"We've got some wonderful youngsters coming through and I think everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that we can keep important players at the club," said the 33-year-old, in reference to unsettled striker Luis Suarez who has been the subject of two failed bids from Arsenal.

"If we do I can assure everyone that we will compete. There might be one or two new faces to add to that as well (a bid has been made to Atletico Madrid for striker Diego Costa) - we'll have to wait and see.

"I'm really pleased with the boys so far - we haven't conceded a goal (in five pre-season friendlies) and we're creating bundles of chances. With the right people in the forward areas, we'll get lots of goals."

Gerrard signed a new contract last month which keeps him at the club for a further two years and Rodgers has not ruled out the midfielder extending that further.

"For me he still has a number of years left yet," he said.

"You gauge players on their hunger, no matter how old or young they are, and Steven is 33 but from the first day I walked in here he struck me with his determination and hunger to succeed.

"He is very much hungry for the club to do well. The quality of his movement, his passes and leadership - he knows there is added responsibility with a number of players moving on (Jamie Carragher has retired and Jose Reina loaned to Napoli) - and he is a real talisman and gentleman."

Rodgers also thought the friendly against Olympiacos proved doubly useful.

"It was a great day. This was a day which was really about him but he wanted it to be about everyone bar him," he said.

"He has made many friends throughout his career but he wanted this to be a game in preparation for our season.

"It was a great send off for him to have won the game and it was great for the supporters to pay homage to an iconic player for this club and who will continue to be so."

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