BRENDAN Rodgers resisted the ray of warm sunshine that flashed through the window in front of him by wearing a long, grey coloured mac. Perching himself on a table he began to confidently explain how his Swansea City team had secured their Premier League future following a 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers. Considering the level of domination, it was a game Swansea should have won.
Usually, a manager completes his immediate post-match duties for the Sunday papers by giving a five-minute interview in front of the television cameras before retreating to a quieter corridor or a back room where he does another one for Monday, giving a similar amount of time depending on his mood. On this occasion, Rodgers offered around 15 minutes for the second sitting alone. He was generous, warm, ambitious and generally very impressive.
During the conversation, Joe Allen’s name was mentioned. He’d been imperious in Swansea’s midfield that afternoon: knitting play together, making key passes and snapping into challenges with opponents — winning his personal battles. Earlier in the season, Swansea, Rodgers and Allen had come to Anfield and performed magnificently. Rodgers had made Kenny Dalglish seem like yesterday’s man and yet, again — a draw was recorded when victory should have been Swansea’s.
At Bolton, Rodgers compared Allen to Xavi, “He’s a little bit like him,” he said — which everyone realised to be quite a compliment and naturally used the line in their reports printed a few days later. The same thing had happened a year earlier when Swansea closed in on a place in the Championship’s play-offs.
When Rodgers became Liverpool’s manager, one of his first actions was to pursue Allen. Before he was even appointed he told Fenway Sports Group that he was the type of player he would look to sign; someone who is young, relatively cheap and highly skilled. Liverpool, he claimed, did not have a midfielder like him.
During the infamous Being Liverpool documentary — which Rodgers wasn’t overly keen featuring in but was persuaded to do so by influences above — Allen moved not only from Swansea to Liverpool but from being “a bit like” Xavi to affirmatively “the Welsh Xavi” when Rodgers was filmed using the term as the pair embraced after a five-year deal was signed.
The reaction proves that you can say something in front of a few journalists in the Championship or at Bolton and nobody will really listen but you can say more or less the same thing working for Liverpool with the whole world watching and it will mean a lot more.
The significance of the comment proved to be enduring both for player and for manager.
Suddenly, Allen had not just moved from Swansea to Liverpool but was placed on a pedestal in line with one of the world’s greatest players and, because of his subsequent struggle to get anywhere near justifying the tag, it contributed towards Rodgers no longer being trusted to make the recruits he absolutely desired with that responsibility being influenced thereafter by the transfer committee.
For many Liverpool supporters the Allen-Xavi link simply made Rodgers seem deluded from pretty much day one.
Across three-and-a-quarter seasons under Rodgers, indeed, Allen was unable to establish consistency, with injuries hampering his progress whenever any sort of momentum was made and confidence appearing to be lost as a consequence.
Allen turned 26 last month and with less than 15 months of the aforementioned five-year contract remaining, Liverpool have so far yet to open negotiations for a new one despite him finally starting to show he can make decisive contributions in key games.
He was one of Liverpool’s best players in the League Cup semi-final first leg away at Stoke City and converted the tie-winning penalty that sent Liverpool through in the second leg two weeks later.
In between, he scored an injury-time equaliser in the draw at home to Arsenal. In Dortmund last Thursday he improved Liverpool’s midfield after his half-time introduction and then carried out a starring role in the 4-1 beating of Stoke on Sunday when he told reporters that he was “fighting for his Liverpool future more than ever,” following a standing ovation from supporters at the moment of his substitution — a sign that he will start again when Dortmund arrive at Anfield tomorrow night.
Perhaps his frustration at not playing as much as he would like under Jürgen Klopp has resulted in a more aggressive performance when he has been selected.
What he has always done well is making sure he is in the right place at the right time from a positional point of view defensively, cutting off the gaps and reducing the possibility of through balls being made.
Considering there is an increasing trend at Liverpool to measure effectiveness by statistics it is unfortunate for him that there is no data available that reflects basic human traits like common sense. He has so far neither offered the number goals or assists to bring into focus his rather more subtle contributions.
From within the club, Allen’s association with Rodgers lingers and there is a sense he is viewed as a pet-project championed by a failed former manager whose entire tenure is viewed dimly by many supporters because of the regression of the team in the last 18 months.
His prospects at Liverpool hang in the balance.
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We were gutted to see him leave Swansea but the transfer fee softened the blow.
The item above it very accurate but it is worth knowing that when he came on for Wales in their recent international friendly in Ukraine he ran the show. Although Wales lost (to a gifted goal against the run of play) Allen was outstanding.
Maybe the disappointment felt in Liverpool is because they a re used to goal scoring central midfielders whereas Joe is more defensive minded and allay maker.
We’d have him back in a heartbeat.
His future really shouldn’t hang in a balance.
The Narberth Nakamura should be a part of our squad for a while yet
It remains to be seen where he figures in Klopp’s fans but I certainly want us to keep him. I think he is our most intelligent midfielder.
I like Joe Allen. I like Jurgen Klopp more though. So whatever decision he makes is fine with me. The great thing about Kloppo is that FSG will never be able to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do: he’s bigger than them.
Here’s hoping…although I’m not sure FSG dictate all that much. Rodgers assembled the sort of squad he wanted, and dispensed with some players who were better than those he bought. I think very little blame can be sheeted home to the owners, apart from sacking a legend someone with Boys Iwn ideas who THOUGHT he was a legend.
FSG did NOT make Rodgers dispense with Pepe Reina and buy a replacement nowhere near as good, IMO.
BTW — I would keep the bearded one now. He has never been a midfield “enforcer”, lacking the physique for that, yet that was how Rodgers played him.
His inability to win tackles against bigger opponents was one of the biggest frustrations with Joe. Which meant he constantly gave away fouls. His heart has never been in doubt.
Since January we’ve seen what the real Joe Allen is like when he’s not beset by injuries or being asked to play an unforgiving role in a variety of formations. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a player at Liverpool who has been quite so influential when coming off the bench. Unlike the likes of Moreno he is one of our more cerebral players and while heart is a good quality in a footballer you also need some with brains. His attitude is second to none on and off the pitch, he’s often been thrown in front of post-match cameras when others don’t seem willing and he always represents the club extremely well. At a time when the success rate of new signings at Liverpool has been dubious to say the least I question how wise it would be to let a low maintenance player leave when he seems to have finally clicked into place.
That’s a great piece Simon and perfectly sums up the dilemma and conundrum surrounding Joe Allen.I happen to think he’s a very good player and could be even better.
I don’t think that Klopp is on a mission to bin every player that Brendan Rodgers bought;he’s much too smart for that.
I think back to Paisley who brought in players who played their own game and fitted in with the rest of the team.He didn’t sign many players who were BIG names apart from Dalglish and by his own admission he stole him.
I’m beginning to think that Klopp views a team like Paisley.Like looking at a car engine.A softer clutch and you change gears quicker.A better injection system and you accelerate quicker a 4 wheel drive and you have more stability.
And he brought in players who fitted in and improved the efficiency of the team.
It wasn’t a case of looking at OPTA stats to decide those things.It was simply about looking at what players were good at and deciding if their attributes would complement the players he already had.
And that’s where Joe Allen could come in.The modern midfielders don’t score many goals;maybe Xavi scores a few more than most at 1 every 10 games?
But the role Xavi mainly plays is to continually recycle the ball to the players who can score goals.And not with spectacular 30 or 40 yard passes.Just accurate passes and then winning possession back and going again.
I think he has a future here.I hope so.
“It was simply about looking at what players were good at and deciding if their attributes would complement the players he already had.But the role Xavi mainly plays is to continually recycle the ball to the players who can score goals.”
Those two sentences sum it up for me. The question is not whether Allen is good at what he does, but whether he is what we need with the players around him. Xavi has always been surrounded by a shedload of goal-scoring power, whereas we don’t have that. Allen is also short which makes a difference when we have Lallana and Coutinho also.
I think is future depends on what else happens around him with ins and outs.
I was never a fan of Joe, but I admit to having revised my opinion. He seemed to be a busy player but largely ineffectual. He has been quite impressive the last couple of months. Not a world beater, though.
Once upon a time Joe Allen would have been described as a ‘cultured’ midfield player. Though he’s not your man to go toe-to-toe with your Vieras or your Keanes of the world he does more than a job for us