Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool: Is Joe Allen the Answer in Midfield?

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 13, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13:  Tom Cleverley of Manchester United competes with Joe Allen of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 13, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool fell to defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, succumbing to a 2-1 scoreline at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United.

The game flow and pattern was rather predictable, with the Reds putting their best passing foot forward whenever possible, while the Red Devils were happy to go from A to B in a pretty incisive fashion.

As Liverpool trudged in 1-0 down at halftime and barely in with a shout of competing, one question was asked more resoundingly than any other—is Joe Allen really the answer?

It's been over four months since the former Swansea midfielder's arrival at Anfield, and back in August everything looked rather rosy.

"We paid £15 million for him," said Brendan Rodgers after his side's unlucky loss to Manchester City early in the season. "When he came in, I said very quickly that the price would double. People probably laughed at me. He will play here for many years and the supporters will love this kid."

At first, this was true. Supporters absolutely loved Joe Allen.

He grew into a familiar role in Rodgers' system, and it didn't take long for him to rack up the passes and make the statistic lovers gush. Sixty-three against Stoke City, 56 against Queens Park Rangers. Easy stuff.

But as the obsession with pass completion percentage died down, legitimate questions were asked about the worth and value of his passes.


Liverpool legend Steve McMahon: "Joe Allen is nothing but a 5-yard passer." - Ouch.

— Verminated (@Vermaelen05) January 13, 2013


While this statement is a little harsh on the Welshman, it must be said that he's nothing close to a playmaker.

He doesn't do an awful lot of positive passes, and the diagram here shows his chart for the 3-1 loss to Aston Villa. While he does a good job of spreading the ball out to the flanks, the killer-ball is lacking.

It's arguable that the killer-ball is not his job. Why do it if Rodgers hasn't asked him to?

But it's also arguable that Liverpool aren't performing with Allen doing his duties even to the best of his abilities. Just as Liverpool are entering a free-flowing, exciting period, is it any surprise that Allen is on the bench?

The midfield of Lucas Leiva (anchor), Steven Gerrard (regista) and Jordan Henderson/Jonjo Shelvey (advanced workhouse) has been largely excellent—pinging passes around, finding Suarez with regularity and overcoming Stakhanovite defences with ease.

The trio have yielded some superb results, including a 4-0 demolition of Fulham, a 3-0 demolition of Sunderland and a 3-0 demolition of QPR—a far cry from the frustrating 3-1 loss to Villa.

It's no coincidence that as Allen was dropped after that loss, the battered Reds won three of their next four games with a total aggregate score of 12-0.

Bring him back for the Manchester United game, and he's not with it. He's off the pace, and he's contributing to a pretty poor Liverpool showing in a pretty big way. Replaced in the 80th minute, Henderson comes on and helps pile huge amounts of pressure on the home side—so much so the crowd cheer in relief when the game ends.

Is Joe Allen a player Liverpool could do without, or is he simply in place before the key attacking pieces like Daniel Sturridge are fully integrated? Is it impossible for him to come to life until others slot in around him?

What's your opinion, Liverpool fans?


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