Liverpool have launched a £15 million bid for Swansea midfielder Joe Allen, triggering a release clause in his contract that allows him to speak to the Merseysiders. Liverpool fans may raise eyebrows at the price tag on the young Welshman; he may not be the most exciting player, but in a Brendan Rodgers team, he is certainly worth the money.
Rodgers’ managerial style resembles Barcelona’s tiki-taka, with its reliance on possession dominance and patient build-up play. When on the ball, players are expected to recycle the ball over and over, waiting for the opposition to tire and leave gaps in their defence. One of the key attributes of his teams is an excellent passer, capable of doing the simple things, capable of passing the ball competently all match, and capable of making himself available for the pass at all times. It is vital that possession is not squandered.
Joe Allen is the perfect player for this system. With a 91.2% pass completion ratio last season, he is amongst the most proficient passers in the division. He spends the entire match in a deep defensive role, making tackles and interceptions when off the ball, making hundreds of short passes when on it. You may think that many players could be capable of being schooled in this way, since the style really only requires spacial awareness, composure and technical accuracy (something players such as Aquilani, Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson already have). As such, £15 million seems a lot for a player that isn’t ‘special’, in the traditional sense.
The reality is, Allen was a bit of a teacher’s pet at Swansea. Rodgers’ system only works if players are ruthlessly drilled, learning exactly when to press, when to hold, when to pass, and when to recycle possession. Players need to be prepared to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team. In Joe Allen, Rodgers can rely on a player that is already perfectly schooled for the style of play he will look to implement at Anfield, giving him a short-cut to success (considering the importance of the dmc role in his formation). For a more in-depth look at what to expect from Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers, click here.
Adapting any team to his ruthless philosophy is a challenge, and one that needs all the help it can get from players already used to the system. Allen may not be worth £15 million to a lot of clubs, but he will always be worth that amount to Rodgers, and he could be an absolutely crucial part of the Liverpool side next year.
At Swansea, Rodgers relied on Allen and Britton in holding roles, with Sigurdsson in an advanced position. This triumvirate will be replicated at Anfield with Allen and Lucas in the deeper positions, with Gerrard occupying the playmaker role. Lucas has returned from a cruciate ligament injury this summer, and is fit and ready to begin the new campaign as he began the last – as one of the best all-round midfielders in the country. Rodgers has a lot more to work with at Liverpool than you might think.
If there was anyone other than Rodgers in the Liverpool hot seat, you could argue that £15 million is too much. Under his philosophy of football however, Allen is an invaluable asset.
Alex Keble is the editor of www.thechalkboard.org.uk, a website that gives in-depth tactical analysis of the weekend’s football action, offering match reports with statistics, diagrams, and intellectual insight into the modern game. Follow @ak_chalkboard.Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!