Stoke City succumbed to a 2-0 loss away to Swansea City this week, and that may have had something to do with playing a makeshift midfield trio.
The experienced John Obi Mikel was flanked by youngster Tashan Oakley-Boothe and Josh Tymon – who is usually seen at left wing back.
Recent injuries to Sam Clucas and Jordan Thompson meant manager Michael O’Neill had to get create, but it’s a more long-term absentee that is perhaps needed in the engine room right now.
Welsh international Joe Allen has been one of Stoke’s key players since joining in 2016, but hasn’t been seen since March after rupturing his achilles tendon against Hull City.
O’Neill has provided a new update to the Stoke Sentinel on Allen’s recovery as he looks to strengthen his starting 11 in the near future.
“Joe’s been out since the last game before lockdown but what I will say is that he’s done everything possible in terms of his recovery,” O’Neill said.
“He’s been phenomenal in the work he’s done. But it’s a difficult injury to put a timeframe on.
“He’s ruptured his Achilles and he’s had a reconstruction there so we have to be careful with him.
“I’d have Joe Allen in my team tomorrow but unfortunately I have to be mindful of where he is in his recovery. He’s still a little bit away.
“It would be unfair of me to put a time on when we think Joe might be back because people then start to look at that timeframe but he’s back on the grass.
“He’s not in full training yet with the squad but he is doing some aspects of training and his diligence in terms of his rehab has been phenomenal.”
Despite notching up some good results in recent weeks, Stoke could do with Allen’s experience on the pitch right now.
He is one of the few big earners from the Premier League days to still be around at the bet365 Stadium, and has always given his all on the pitch for The Potters.
You can always rely on him to get a goal or two from the middle of the park, but you have to worry about the severity of an achilles rupture when he’s almost 31 years of age.
Allen may not be the player he once was when he returns, but O’Neill will be desperate for him to be fully-fit as soon as possible to give his team a better chance of finishing in the top six.