Liverpool: Why Joe Allen Will Bring the Good Times Back to Anfield
Liverpool's new era is beginning to take shape.
Brendan Rodgers' team may be struggling in the Premier League, but plenty of positives can be taken from the Merseyside club's start to the season.
One such positive is Joe Allen.
The 22-year-old Welshman followed the new manager from Swansea City to Anfield in the summer. His time at The Liberty Stadium is defined by the club's superb Premier League debut season in 2011-12. The Swans finished in a fantastic 11th place and enjoyed plenty of plaudits across the campaign.
Allen was pivotal to this. His ability to dictate and spread play is well-documented. So far, his performances in Liverpool's historic red indicates his signing will bring the feel good factor back to the Kop before long.
We all know what Allen can achieve when the ball is at his feet. His distribution is thoughtful, accurate, and often acts as a catalyst towards a chance on goal.
Allen's stature heightens when you consider he isn't overplaying to impress his new supporters. In five appearances for Liverpool, he has stuck to what made him a success at Swansea.
Unlike the displays of the recently departed Charlie Adam, Allen doesn't harm his chances by trying to do too much. He continues to play in the same style that won him so much praise last year. After all, he was bought for a reason. As Adam proved, one excellent season with a newly-promoted side is not enough to sustain a career at an elite club.
Joe Allen's importance to Liverpool should be gauged by who else is in the team. Steven Gerrard continues to impose his experience on a side that features more younger players than we've seen in a long time. Gerrard is also famed for his ability to pass the ball, but there are key differences between the two midfielders.
As Gerrard's legs begin to age, the Englishman's style of play has altered. He no longer consistently bombs into the opposition's area with purpose. While he supports attacking moves, Gerrard doesn't possess the speed and power that has made him such a goalscoring threat over the years.
This is by no means a criticism. No matter how great a player is, time catches up. Truly great individuals evolve their game alongside such a transformation.
Players such as Ryan Giggs have overcome the loss of pace by becoming increasingly disciplined and direct. Gerrard is at the stage in his career where this is beginning to happen and Joe Allen's acquisition will help him along the way.
The Welshman is able to keep the ball ticking across the pitch with short passes that often maintain possession. Gerrard no longer needs to complete this job. Instead, the captain has more time and space to pick out a key pass. His diagonal long balls were key for England at Euro 2012, and if he's afforded such room this season in the Premier League, we should expect the same to happen again.
Allen recorded a pass success rate of 91 percent in Liverpool's recent fixture against Sunderland, adding to an overall statistic of 93 percent for the campaign.
The match may have finished 1-1, but the Reds were unlucky to leave the Stadium of Light without the three points. Allen indicated his side deserved the win and confidently praised the performance of the club's young superstar Raheem Sterling (via The Daily Mail).
Such a mature attitude only adds to the player's appeal.
He has a mammoth task on his hands. Allen has been given an important role at a club that has employed some of the best defensive midfielders the world has ever seen. Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano may be long gone, but most Liverpool fans would love to have them back. This indicates how pivotal Allen can be for the Reds. If he continues to improve, the same acclaim might come his way in the future.
Joe Allen must be afforded time at Liverpool. Press mutterings criticise the Welshman for playing safely, but they miss the bigger picture. This is a club that has had an amazingly tough year. From Luis Suarez' racism spat to the continued fight for justice in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, the English press circle with fascination.
Every Liverpool result is heavily scrutinised. With players like Allen at the club, such issues will never topple the side's ability to compete. I believe a calm, assuring presence is exactly what Brendan Rodgers needs in midfield.
Allen's impact may not be measured in assists or goals, but every great club needs a player of his ilk to allow the superstars time to shine.
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