As Lucas Leiva’s thigh injury led to his trudging off in the 4th minute against City, the deep thud from the sinking of Liverpudlian hearts was so forceful it caused a miniature earthquake in the North Atlantic. Reportedly, it even roused Harry Redknapp from his managerial career on FIFA 12, but you shouldn’t believe everything you read…Anyhow, the outlook seemed bleak for Liverpool who face 3 months without their holding midfielder, damaging their hopes of a top four finish. Someone needed to fill this substantial void: any volunteers?
Enter 22 year-old Joe Allen: Liverpool’s £15 million Welsh acquisition from Swansea during the summer transfer window. The 5ft 6in midfield maestro, together with Leon Britton, was the ignition to Swansea’s distribution engine that beguiled the nation (England, that is), yet his key role to their success is often underrated. Evidently, Liverpool saw value in the Welshman and snapped him up for 15 big ones, placing pressure on Allen to perform. Allen, thrust into a star-studded midfield against City, willingly took this pressure by the scruff of the neck, drowned it in the fountain of confidence, drenched it in the burning oil of intelligence, before stapling to its head a sign displaying the phrase “man-of-the-match vs. City”. True story.
You may ask, “So he had a good game against City and he can pass a ball. So what?” Well, how often does a footballer come close to the precision of Xavi Hernandez’s ball distribution? It seems out of the question, right? Wrong. No doubt after administering a similar punishment to this claim as to the concept of pressure to perform, Allen managed to rack up a passing percentage of 90.3% last season, challenging that of the Barcelona wizard who found his target 93% of the time. Now, doubters, consume your words for this lad is something else.
Against City, Allen’s passes found a teammate 93.5% of the time – the highest in the match – and against Arsenal, Allen’s pass percentage was 93%. His pass completion at Swansea and Liverpool is 93% in 38 games, whereas the average pass percentage for midfielders who have played over 30 games is 82%, illustrating Allen’s dominance in the middle of the park. To add to this already-impressive tally, Allen completed 2177 passes last season – 856 more than the average midfielder (The Telegraph).
Although Allen plays in a deeper role for Liverpool than he was accustomed to at Swansea, he seems to have adapted rapidly and is still at the heart of most build-up play. His remarkable passing ability is combined with a terrier-like determination and fearlessness far beyond his tender age, making him a major threat to any team no matter where he plays.
An illustration of Allen’s impressive pass completion in the games against Manchester City and Arsenal (FourFourTwo Stats Zone).
Allen’s performances have not gone unnoticed, though, as Brendan Rodgers commended him after the match against City: 'He’s five foot six but in terms of a footballer, he is seven foot six. He is absolutely immense – his courage to get on the ball, his bodywork is fantastic; how he reads the game, his football intelligence. This kid will play at the top and is playing at the top.’ (Daily Mail).
So he’s earned praise from the manager, the fans love his style, and his teammates thrive on his passing. Could it get any better? Fortunately it could: he’s still only 22 years of age, giving him the potential for a long, illustrious career. Furthermore, the combination of Allen, Sahin, and Gerrard has the fans licking their lips at the potential of having one of the most dangerous midfields in the League. The discovery of 17 year-old starlet Raheem Sterling has pumped further life into Liverpudlians, and the achievement of best defensive record in the League last season seems to cap it all off.
If Allen can get game time and continue his passing trends, he has the potential of being the next big thing at Liverpool. The Reds also have a bright future ahead of them: with Brendan Rodgers at the helm with his passing-minded philosophy, a solid team at his disposal, and some stars-in-the-making, Liverpool supporters finally have something to cheer about. The only thing that can happen now is for Liverpool to implode and get relegated. But what are the chances of that happening?