Joe Allen: the midfielder who Brendan Rodgers described as one of the most technically sound players he has ever worked with.
The player Rodgers spent a huge chunk of money to buy. Allen and his midfield partners were instrumental in helping the Swans to a respectable position during their first season in the Premier League.
Allen came to Anfield having to fight against the likes of Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson, Jonjo Shelvey and others for a midfield spot.
The first few matches into his Reds career showed glimpses of his talent. He was everywhere. He was at the start of every attack, the last ditch tackler, the midfield game breaker and the one who kept the tempo of team going with his short smart passes.
But over the course of the season, his performances deteriorated. His enthusiasm was there for all to see but he was not able to live up to the price tag and the faith put into him by the manager. He then faced stiff competition with Lucas coming back from injury and also Henderson who kept on improving over the course of season.
He kept playing second fiddle to other midfielders and had to wait until January to score his first goal. But what was evident from this period was the willingness Allen had to get into any position and play for the team. Eventually he was ruled out for reminder of season in mid-march after his shoulder surgery.
Many reports claim that Allen injured himself sometime and was carrying the injury for long and this may have caused the decline in his performances. But all this should be noted considering this was a new phase for now just the player but also the club.
Rodgers came into the club with a different philosophy and ideas from what Kenny Dalglish had. Both has similarities in the sense that both set up teams to play pass and move football. But the ideas and strategy that Rodgers had were different.
For a new young manager to come into the club and enforce his ideas onto the team often takes time. But as evident from the second half of last season, once the team got a better idea of the philosophy, they started playing much better. This was the scenario where Allen would have thrived. He would have gelled in well with players like Coutinho and Sturridge who always wait for the smart pass and make their move.
So what makes this season better for Allen?
Premier League index and Opta stats suggest that Allen passed the ball forward more than Mikel Arteta did and only slightly less Yaya Toure.
Allen was also the team`s best long-range passer and was second in the league at 89.6% completion. His statistics and gameplay dropped only after the Merseyside derby and that coincided with the shoulder injury he picked up.
Rodgers claimed that Allen plays similar to Paul Scholes in sense that both are comfortable at keeping possession of the ball and rarely give away which is a rarity in the Premier League.
Like Didier Hamann, Allen possesses the intelligence and skills to play in a number of positions and that makes him crucial for the upcoming season. He can fill in for Gerrard or Coutinho when either of them drift away from their positions and carry on the same work as the former ones would do.
Allen was used alongside Gerrard in certain games and he was given the duty to break plays. But he is not a proper defensive midfielder like Lucas who will get it right every time.
If he plays alongside a proper defensive midfielder he can focus solely on what he does best. He also need to work on his final passes into the box and the ability to run counter attacks with one pass. If he gets into positions to shoot he should be able to provide at least five to 10 goals during the season which can help the team go forward.
Allen has come back into the team fitter and hungry to prove himself. If he can get into the same rhythm, passing game and control as the one he has during the start of last season then we can surely expect a very good season for the young Welsh midfielder.
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