Feature by Lewis Melisi
Updated Monday, 10th September 2012
For Liverpool fans the summer transfer window of 2012 will be forever remembered for the players LFC failed to capture. However, it appears that potentially one of the clubs finest purchases of recent years has been somewhat overshadowed by recent events.
Many questioned Brendan Rodgers decision to spend a seemingly large wedge of his summer transfer budget on a central midfielder, especially given that this appeared to be a position in which we had suitable first teamers and covering players – Gerrard, Adam, Shelvey, Spearing, Henderson and of course the returning Lucas. Rodgers however had other plans. Adam and Spearing were shipped out, transferred and loaned respectively. Henderson also deemed surplus to requirements was included as part of a deal to bring the goal scoring American Clint Dempsey to the club, only the Ex-Sunderland mans reluctance to relocate to London prevented his departure. It was also widely reported that Jonjo Shelvey was set to become a further victim of the Irishman’s axe, however his efforts to impress have seen him work his way back into the thoughts of BR. Turkish international and Real Madrid misfit Nuri Şahin came in on loan, his on the ball composure and intelligent passing making him an ideal addition to suit the plans of the manager. And thus with the comings and goings the doors opened for Allen to take centre stage in Liverpool’s midfield.
Along with the introduction of 17 year old Raheem Sterling, Allen’s early performances have provided fans with at least some positives to take from what has been a difficult and largely disappointing start to the Premier League campaign. Performances which have seen the midfield maestro collect a man of the match award against defending champions Manchester City along the way.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’d hadn’t seen much of Joe Allen prior to his arrival. My expectation of what I’d witness when he played was – simple short sideways passing. How pleasantly surprised I was to be. Sure the simple passing is a large part of his game, but I was as delighted as the next fan to learn of his vast array of abilities. Over recent weeks we’ve seen him execute some remarkable long range passing with levels of accuracy that would have a six pence diving for cover. His technique and composure when in possession wouldn’t look out of place in a side of Spaniards. He wants and welcomes the ball at every opportunity. Both Light and nimble, yet seemingly strong also. Very rarely losing possession and being blessed with an exceptional footballing brain with which he reads the game almost effortlessly, allowing him to make crucial interceptions and break down opposition play. All this whilst also appearing not to be overwhelmed by the expectation of the Liverpool fans or the price tag with which he has been burdened.
Allen looked to be a player who would thrive alongside our other midfield favourite, Lucas Leiva. Unfortunately however the football gods had other ideas and our Brazilian linchpin succumb to a thigh injury early on in the match-up against Manchester’s sky blue contingent. The implications of Lucas’s injury are likely to have a significant effect on the role Allen will now play for the club. BR stating that the Welshman will occupy a deeper, more defensive role in Lucas’s absence.
The significance of signing a player like Joe Allen shouldn’t be underestimated. At the tender age of just 22 he will inevitably improve with experience. Once Rodgers favoured midfield are all back fully fit, Allen can be unshackled and adopt a role further forward to bolster our creativity within the attacking third. This I believe is when we’ll really see the excellence of Allen’s footballing abilities. Another point which should be considered with the arrival of the former Swansea man is the effect this could have on existing players within the squad, none more so that the talismanic captain and Kop legend, Steven Gerrard. Allen’s introduction has vastly improved what was a mismatch of midfield talent. The players which have departed this summer, and sadly some that remain are simply not in the same class as our much loved captain, and for this reason Gerrard has over the years consistently carried inferior members of the squad, single handedly winning matches and taking games by the scruff of the neck when needed. Not since the regrettable exit of Xabi Alonso has there been a midfielder who could come close to Gerrard’s ability. Sadly however, and as much as it pains me to admit it, Gerrard’s influence is fading and will continue to fade ever more in the coming seasons. He still has plenty to offer and no doubt will be a major character both on and off the pitch. His on field contributions however cannot be relied upon in the same manner of which they have been in seasons gone by. A player of Joe Allen’s quality bridges the talent chasm. He is a player of real quality, a genuine “technician” as Rodgers so aptly describes him. He has the tools to take a portion of that responsibility off the shoulders of the Liverpool and England captain, and this could prove to benefit Gerrard and the longevity of his club career.
I’ve already heard the inevitable comparisons between Allen and another of our former midfield heroes, Xabi Alonso. Whilst not identical in their approach, there are similarities to their respective styles. They both possess an abundance of natural footballing ability. Both have the aptitude to make the difficult seem almost effortless. Both are technically very gifted and majestic in their movement, on and off the ball. If Allen turns out to be half the player Alonso was for us, and still is for the Spanish champions Real Madrid, the £15m price tag will have been a nominal fee to pay for his services. Me personally, I believe he does possess the talent to be as good, if not better than the Spanish World and two time European champion.
To some this blog may seem premature what with Allen’s Liverpool career still very much in its infancy. Few can argue though that his performances in the early stages of this season have shown levels of ability and maturity well beyond his age and experience. Should the Welshman continue in the fine form of which he has started life for the Reds, he will most certainly pave a path into the hearts of the Liverpool fans. In time he will prove to be an integral cog in Brendan Rodgers footballing machine.
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