“All hail Joe Allen” or "he's the route of boring football"? The facts of the debate.
Question marks hang over the head of an apparently frail and unassuming midfield linchpin, opined to be lacking cutting edge and physical presence. One thing is for certain; his footballing father figure will always love him. With his mind made up, Rodgers has grown to publicly share affection for his pass master, Joe Allen; a pass-master who, in Rodgers's philosophically wise words, exemplifies the great Xavi, among lavish adulation for him. Brendan Rodgers leapt to defend the player receiving the wrath of Alan Shearer's doggedly decisive analysis, who jumped to the conclusions that he is excessively cautious and negative with his distribution. Crucially, the pundit and numerous others have yet to come aboard. By berating Shearer for his unjustified evaluations on Match of the Day, for turning a blind eye to Rodgers' manifesto to regard his revolutionary plans being built around Joe Allen, for grumbling, Rodgers reinstated his adoration, like a love-struck little girl, for the man in the middle of the dispute- and securely positioned in the middle of the Anfield pitch.
"I saw someone recently criticising Joe Allen for not playing risk passes. Unbelievable; so-called pundits who don't know the dynamics of a team and how it functions," countered Rodgers. He rapped by displaying a scowl etched across his face. He was less than pleased with someone challenging the maestro behind his aims and who shares his objectives: some sort of total footballing excellence mirroring Holland in the 90s and The Dream Team of Barcelona in the present day.
It is no use uninteresting you with any more of the praise that is frequently firing on all cylinders of the media, which is for an entirely different article. No article can possibly quote them all in less than a 5000-word report. Plus, no writer physically has the energy to bash on at a keyboard at such time-consuming length, quoting all of the airs the graces granted by Brendan Rodgers to enchant Allen in the future, if not place a burden on him to perform the wizardry that brought him to Liverpool, and, judging by his overly supportive words, then a serious amount more.
The first signing of the Rodgers era cost £15million and a hefty chunk of heart-shaped cherry pie, therefore it was perhaps a no-brainer for Joe Allen to decide on committing to a match made in heaven- a perfect fit- over loyalty to boy-hood club Swansea. Understandable of how desperate his recently resigned boss was to seal the move, he satisfied his attempts.
As if to hold hands with his spiritual partner, they embarked on a journey to the Anfield ranch upon the chief’s appointment to the ever-changing managerial post at Liverpool, evoking the image of the two Of Mice And Men characters roaming fields together for work during an economic downturn that is the cause of mass concern at morbid unemployment there, nearly annually. It's all relative to the displaced Allen and Rodgers dually trotting down the river Mersey, seeking to increase their salaries by fulfilling the vacant void. They now adhere to alter the mindset of a stagnating club failing to progress under reinvigorating- before inevitably faltering- past regimes. The setting of the famous novel was in the Great Depression, which one could infer bares comparison to their hopes of prosperity and effectively living off of the early 1900’s American proverbial “fatta’ the lan’”, in a sceptical world of football. In that particular narrative, the protagonists, much like at the present Liverpool, differentiate, although they are both influential at equal measures. You could argue that Joe Allen personifies Lenny, a migrant worker, who has the physical suitability to put into practice the brains of his astute friend, football’s equivalent to George: Brendan Rodgers.
Possession: 9 tenths of the law
If one player reflects the new Liverpool way and embodies the sort of desirable attributes sought to bring Liverpool back into the ascendancy of club football, it is Joe Allen. He has the palatable raw ability to keep the ball in a holding role, which is how Paul Scholes has managed to compete at the highest level for such a prolonged career, but Joe Allen needs firepower ahead of him so that his work can be converted into goals. Scholes has been integral to the dynamics of the successful United team, solely by keeping the ball. What Scholes has always had around him are talents capable of unlocking defences and ,vitally, score goals; what Liverpool are yet to fully discover and reap the rewards of.
In abolishing the 4 British recruits that were over-rated and over-valued 18 months ago, Rodgers sets his sights on clearing the murky waters left by the dethroned king, Kenny Dalglish. Now, Brendan Rodgers has a whole different mindset to Dalglish, as the transition continues for the better. His methods to establish continuity of ball-withholding and to keep the love-sick Liverpool fans buoyant by the new ideas have, though, lead to people in football putting lacklustre form down to over-passing, without posing an adequate threat to score in advanced positions. The flack was aimed at the man at the centre of operating how the new-look Liverpool team plays.
For intents and purposes, a look at recent Liverpool’s passing statistics at home to Reading confirms that Allen favours safe passes to keep Liverpool moving. Out of his total 63 passes, a massive 18 were sent backwards and a further 12 were ‘square’ to the left and right. All of his passes going in directions other than forward were completed, contributing towards a staggering 95% pass success rate overall, second best in the league on an average of 94% per game. That means Allen totalled 32 forward passes in 90 minutes; a considerable amount, but still Shearer suggested that he did not lay off enough risky forward passes. Needless to say, he failed to complete several of his attack-minded ploys. He chose not to advance the play 31 times when he should have, in Shearer’s eyes. Rodgers’ opposing viewpoint would denote that Allen expertly kept the ball on 31 occasions. It’s very much a matter of opinion.
'Caution' and 'prudence' are key words. There is a fine line between each in the modern game. However, it seems absurd to claim that the sort of football that the Liverpool boss instructs his team to play from the touchline- complete with typical, swift punching actions in gesticulation- blights the advance of attacks Rodgers’ belief seems more concrete than Shearer’s purport, given that it is factitiously proven that passing short, sideways or backwards results in higher possession percentages than going forward. Besides, how can any side, Barcelona or not, aim to progress up the pitch and penetrate efficiently without having the football?
The single best way to keep the ball is by retaining possession in short and swift passing patterns. Allen keeps the flow of play in fluid motion, which his manager will endlessly preach. While possession doesn't necessarily mean the amount of passes a team make and Liverpool can't exactly be compared to their extravagant heights, Barcelona, arguably the most effective in the club game, have accumulated superior possession over teams which continue to be taught a lesson in keep-ball this season which is rather unmanageable to withstand.
While Liverpool haven’t yet mastered how to maintain possession for long periods of time, evident in performances barely reaching over 50% of possession, when Liverpool have played at their compelling best in Brendan's tenure, so has Allen, who is at the centre of all that is promising at the club. Additionally, he offers a promise. The promise of a Welshman orchestrating the centre of the pitch, allowing more direct attacking players capable of changing a game space and time for which to exploit starts the Kop frothing at the mouth in appreciation and anticipation at what is patiently mounting in the final third.
Where do Liverpool falter if they have a player so comfortably assured with the ball at his talented feet, and crucially at the heart of every move? It conceives as the million dollar question. Well, Luis Suarez could be given his share of blame, partly culpable for missing chances that leave all quarters of football followers scratching their head far too often. He should score these goal-bound opportunites, for he is an undeniably accomplished footballer, yet only Robin Van Persie has hit the frame of the goal more times than Suarez’s 9 this season. Another answer could be the lack of service received from his teammates.
Allen is carrying this Liverpool side; not just in terms of attacking dexterity. His immense qualities in regaining the ball are an indication of his all-round sterling abilities. Joe Allen is hardly an insignificant push-over in the context of defensive duties, having won the ball 60 times; more than any other Premier League player this season. This is incredibly undermining of the pundits who neglect him, concerning his height that is inferior to the average midfielder, yet he makes up for this defensive deficiency in his nimbleness in making interceptions and dispossessing the opponents. It is a shame that Allen's contributions towards cutting out attacks are expected to go unmentioned, as that side of the game will not be associated to the slightly built 5' 6" Welsh player of the year.
Doubt Joe Allen at your peril, but he has to play out a season of underachievement before he can be degraded by the media to the degree of the pitiless lambasting encountered by Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing last season. He is by no means as poor as those rudimentary under-performers. He will scarcely be disregarded by the manager to boot. Allen is incomprehensibly Rodgers' main man, starting as many games as any Liverpool player this season. Don't expect that to change. In a way, Brendan Rodgers will all too predictably stick with his love match, relied upon for assisting the dynamic advanced play synonymous to Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, whatever happens in his reign.
Lenny and George dream of prosperity. It is just within their grasp, if Liverpool’s prize assets can provide the goods.
Opta Stats correct up until 27th October 2012.