Throughout the 2011/2012 season Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea surprised many as they played their exhilarating ‘tiki taka’ football in their first year in the Premier League.
Orchestrating their play were two midfield men who proved pivotal to Rodgers, Joe Allen and Leon Britton. Fast forward to this season and the pair have been separated – Allen of course has followed his old boss to Anfield whilst Britton holds fort in South Wales
Yet why did Rodgers choose Allen over Britton? Both were important parts of his Swansea side last season and already know the tiki taka style that the former Swans boss is desperate to succeed with on Merseyside. Other than the age difference, both players could argue their case for a move to Liverpool based on talent and ability. Only Rodgers and his coaching staff have the inside information on the decision, yet if we look at the statistics compiled by this EPL index article it gives us a good idea as to who fits best at Anfield.
Now obviously I am not going to recite the statistics but what they portray is incredibly interested. Both players were ranked in the top ten for passes attempted and completed last season. However we all know that they can both play the possession game, the real question is which player brings more to the table?
To answer honestly – there can’t be an answer because when you break down the facts these two are different types of player. Whilst both had similar passing statistics, Joe Allen indicated his attacking tendencies with a larger percentage of through balls, shots on target and chances created. In contrast, Leon Britton had the majority of his passes go sideways.
Whilst this may be construed as negative play, Britton’s control of possession was crucial in setting the tempo of the Swansea team. In addition Allen made more tackles then Britton over the course of the season.
The next question posed is why is Joe Allen the right choice for Liverpool? Well EPL’s stats also help us answer this. Whilst both players are capable of building from the back, Allen is sure to remind Rodgers of his captain Steven Gerrard.
The Welshman is more of a roaming midfield player that can track back to make tackles whilst also being able to push forward and create clear-cut chances with his through balls.
Britton is more of a player that sits in the middle of the park or in front of the back four, maintaining possession and dictating the tempo of play until he can feed the ball to his creative players. The reason why the Reds didn’t sign him is because Liverpool already have a man for this job – Lucas.
So then, how does Rodgers get the best out of Allen? Well to utilize the Welshman to maximum effect, the Liverpool boss has to get captain Steven Gerrard to take Allen under his wing. The former Swansea midfielder has what it takes to replace the Liverpool skipper when he chooses to leave club football.
With his tenacity and ability to create chances, Allen will thrive in a more central attacking role then playing from the back. Yet the key component is currently ruled out with injury.
Much in the way that Steven Gerrard developed into the player that with Xabi Alonso playing behind him, Allen will succeed when Lucas Leiva soaks up the pressure in front of the defence. Lucas’ injury is detrimental to Allen’s progress in his first season on Merseyside, as he will have to sit behind Gerrard in the midfield and fill the Brazilian’s role.
I have huge confidence that Joe Allen will be a huge hit at Anfield having already started brightly since moving from Swansea. Yet for Rodgers to get the best out of his protégé he may just have to wait for another key player to return to the side.