Liverpool Pre-Season Focus: Brendan Rodgers' Tactics, Martin Kelly and Joe Allen

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

Liverpool FC players warm up prior to a friendly soccer match against AS Roma at Fenway Park in Boston, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo)
Uncredited/Associated Press

Liverpool continued their pre-season preparations with a late 1-0 defeat to Serie A runners-up AS Roma at Fenway Park in Boston. 

The Reds' third game of the summer was 0-0 at the break, with few chances created throughout the 90 minutes, until Daniel Agger diverted a corner past his own keeper in the last minute of the match.

Continuing in our series of monitoring the tactics of manager Brendan Rodgers for the season ahead and the performances of a pair of players each match, this time around we're looking at full-back Martin Kelly and midfielder Joe Allen, both of whom played more than an hour of the game.



Rodgers went with a 4-3-3 again from the outset against Roma, marking two pre-season games started with that system and one with the diamond.

As in the first two games, the Reds' plans were once again marred by an early injury, this time coming to Fabio Borini, who went off with a shoulder problem after a heavy fall.

The ensuing change saw Philippe Coutinho move from his central role to a wider position in the front line, with Jordon Ibe on the opposite side and Rickie Lambert central. Lucas Leiva once more anchored the midfield, with Allen and, after Coutinho moved forward, Emre Can ahead of him.

Uncredited/Associated Press

Seb Coates was a returning name to the team-sheet in the centre of defence, as was Jose Enrique on the left. Later in the game, Kris Peterson made another appearance at centre-forward and midfielders Suso and Jordan Henderson made late cameos. Jack Robinson was largely impressive at left-back in the second 45 minutes.

The Reds dominated possession in the first half without creating too many chances; Coutinho's change of pace and willingness to take on his man was a key factor in their approach play once again. But Lambert was far too isolated centrally for any real chances to be created.

PRESTON, LANCASHIRE - JULY 19: Emre Can of Liverpool in action during the pre season friendly match between Preston North End and Liverpool at Deepdale on July 19, 2014 in Preston, Lancashire.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

After the break it was more a case of hit on the break when the opportunity presented itself, with Can's superb driving runs forward an important and pleasing aspect of the Premier League side's play.

As with the first 45, though, there were very few chances created at either end, and it took a scruffy own goal to settle it.


Martin Kelly

Kelly continued working his way toward full-match witness with a 67-minute appearance against Roma.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  Martin Kelly of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 26, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Playing at right-back once more, he faced a familiar test in the shape of Ashley Cole from Roma's left side, with Adem Ljajic also a pacy opponent.

All told, Kelly dealt well with the threat for most of the first hour, closing down well and showing a good turn of pace more than once to cover balls played in behind. He looked strong on the ball, held off challengers well and passed out of the back line composedly.

Only twice did Kelly really put his foot on the gas to surge forward down the right flank, with one low cross in particular an impressive dribble and delivery, from which Lambert was unable to produce a telling finish.

Before going off, Kelly was visibly weary and left the pitch to be replaced by Conor Coady. Presumably, the tiredness comes from the pre-season fitness work, and it's something he needs to get spot on very soon.

This campaign is a vital one for Kelly's future at Liverpool, and he cannot afford for lack of fitness to be a reason for non-selection at any point, especially at the start of the season.


Joe Allen

With the number of arrivals capable of playing in midfield positions set to increase competition for 2014-15, Allen is one of the stars of the second half of last season who needs to continue to up his game to keep a place in the side.

Against Roma he was initially left of centre, then right of centre after Borini's substitution.

PRESTON, LANCASHIRE - JULY 19:  Joe Allen of Liverpool in action during the pre season friendly match between Preston North End and Liverpool at Deepdale on July 19, 2014 in Preston, Lancashire.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

He was seen several times pressing extremely high up the field, almost to a right-wing position, a positive sign of both fitness and team intent; the pressing and subsequent quick transitions were a key feature of Liverpool's best play last season.

When Allen is on his game, he's a big part of that particular tactic, possessing both the technique and mentality required to do both sides of the press, pass approach.

A number of times there were quick exchanges of passes in the final third as Liverpool looked to get some positive build-up play going. Invariably, Allen was involved in this along with Coutinho and Can.

There was little end product to the Reds' play, and Allen was a part of that side of things too. But in terms of his running and positioning on the pitch, it wasn't bad at all for a third pre-season game from the Welshman.