When Liverpool signed Joe Allen is August 2012, Brendan Rodgers boldly came out and said “We paid £15m for him and I said that very quickly that price would double and people probably laughed at me.”
Now we as supporters are starting to see just how much the Welshman brings to the team. Because of injuries and general poor form, Allen has only been able to play a squad player role for the club since he joined.
But after the start to the season he has made, I think that Allen is a shoe-in for the first team now. He has a tremendous work rate on him, but also he has a great quality on the ball to keep the momentum of the attack going.
He has a 85.2% pass completion rate so far this season and that is against some very good opposition as well. He has featured against Southampton, Manhester City and Tottenham prior to injury this season, all teams that press high up the pitch. In those games he only gave the ball away nine times out 61 attempted passes.
Allen is also very good when he has the ball at his feet, with the remarkable control that he possesses I always feel comfortable when he has the ball at his feet.
But what I need to explain is why Allen has to start in our team. If we all agree that the diamond is our preferred formation then Allen is a must. The likes of Lallana and Coutinho are great going forward but their defensive contributions are not half as good compared to Allen. The natural feeling for Coutinho and Lallana is to attack, and if they play at the tip of the diamond then that is fine. Yet as one of the central two midfielders, they lose half of their impact.
Allen covers the ground the Gerrard cannot, and is always going deep to fetch the ball from the skipper meaning that the midfield are pressing somebody other than Gerrard. Rodgers once said the Joe Allen may be 5ft 7 in height, but in footballing terms Allen is 7ft 6, and now I am starting to see what he means. His tactical intelligence is so important to this Liverpool side, and I think the fans really do fail to appreciate his huge impact so far this season.
Many have said that he holds back Jordan Henderson – absolute rubbish in my opinion. Allen is a player that releases Henderson, because he is happy to watch the men around Gerrard and stay further back. In fact, Henderson’s displays have lost their impact since Allen has gone out of the team. In the three games Allen appeared in, Henderson played a huge part in Liverpool playing some very good football. Rodgers described his most complete performance under his reign as the 5-0 win over Tottenham last season at White Hart Lane – a game in which Allen and Henderson were superb in the middle of the park.
Since Allen picked up an injury on what proved to be a cursed international break, Liverpool have lost two and drawn one of their three Premier League matches.
Whilst many have cursed the injury to Sturridge, although a major loss, the loss of Allen in my opinion is actually bigger.
Sturridge may well be the one who scores the goals but Joe Allen is somebody who stops them – he finds the ball and wins it back. One of the simplest jobs at first look, but Allen does two in one. He is the defensive minded player Liverpool are looking for, and although he doesn’t possess the magic Xavi does, I can see why the comparison was made.
When Allen returns to the team the fans will see just how much he contributes to the team. It was too much to throw Lallana in so early after his injury and he has struggled to keep up with the work rate Brendan Rodgers’ system takes out of you – although his performance and energy levels in the 1-1 draw with Everton showed he is on the way to becoming a crucial first team player.
Only in the last week has he started to show some promise, and I think if Allen would have been in the team Lallana would have made a far better start to his career. Many say that Henderson is the most important part of our team, I disagree I think having him AND Joe Allen is the best thing for our team.