IF the August transfer window ends with Joe Allen still a Liverpool player, he will be starting his fifth season in a Liverpool shirt. Allen has been one of the stand-out performers in Wales’ incredible run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, where they face Portugal this evening.
Wales’ run has been fantastic. A victory for a side embracing what they are, playing to their strengths, passionately battling and not trying to be something that they aren’t. Basically, they’ve been the Anti-England, who tried to be Tottenham and then failed because they aren’t Tottenham.
Wales have tried to be Wales. Like how Italy try to be Italy. And Germany attempt to be Germany. England try to be all of them. They fail. And then wonder why it failed.
Wales’ victory against Belgium on Friday meant that they have won more knockout games at the 2016 European Championships than England has in the history of the competition. Think about how utterly crazy that is. How utterly embarrassing that is for England.
It would be fantastic if the FA decided to use Wales as their template instead of attempting to ape Spain, Germany, France or the Dutch. There is no shame in English football embracing being English. International football isn’t about a style of play or an ethos — it’s about winning as many games as possible over the course of a month every two years.
The Liverpool-related run-off from Wales’s extraordinary run has been a huge amount of talk about Joe Allen’s future.
From earlier this year it has been clear Allen’s chances of a long-term future at Liverpool are at best slim, at worst non-existent. He’s got 12 months left on his contract and a new offer doesn’t appear to be forthcoming.
Allen is a good footballer. I’m not using more superlatives than that as I don’t really think anything he’s done since 2012 deserves him being labelled anything above that. What is written below probably won’t prove to be very popular.
I like him, I like the way he clearly values the ball and uses it well when he does have it. His input in games like Dortmund last season was vital. He got on the ball and helped calm things down and provided us with something we hadn’t had previously. But how have we got to a position where he is now held in such high esteem? I must have been watching something very different in 2012, 2013, 2014, and…you get the point.
People will say, “Well he’s a decent squad option.” No, sorry, I don’t want a single decent ‘squad option’ next season. I want 20 players who can start every week if needed and can make a real difference. Being able to “do a job” shouldn’t be entertained any more. Let’s think big. Manchester United have just signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan while we’ve got loads of people wanting to get Allen more involved.
In the previous four seasons Allen has started 60 of a possible 152 league games — an average of 15 a season and 23 games on average where he hasn’t been in the starting line-up.
In those four seasons Liverpool’s league position has been seventh, second, sixth and eighth. Allen hasn’t been able to hold down a starting place in what is, on the basis of league positions, one of the poorest-performing Liverpool sides in living memory.
Two managers have failed to give him regular football. One of them signed him for the club having managed him before and one is Jürgen Klopp, who gave him six Premier League starts all season.
Even in these six starts, four of them came after Klopp decided to ‘manage’ the squad during our end-of-season run-in towards the Europa League final, while one of the other two was when Emre Can was suspended.
Where is this adulation coming from?
The belief that Joe Allen is good enough to hold down a regular position at Liverpool Football Club is something I find mystifying.
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He’s been great for Wales in the Euros? Couldn’t care less. I’ve watched Hal Robson-Kanu, who is literally unemployed, score two goals for Wales in the last few weeks and if Liverpool turn up at the Emirates in six weeks’ time with him playing I’ll be trying to burn that new stand of ours down before it’s even completed. Salif Diao looked great for Senegal in 2002, Phil Babb looked brilliant for Ireland in 1994.
One thing I’ve had a good laugh at is the narrative from many who love doing Jordan Henderson down. “Why are we getting rid of Joe Allen and keeping Jordan Henderson? It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Ridiculous? In the four seasons since Allen signed he’s failed to displace Henderson in the centre of our midfield. Henderson was also named captain by the previous manager — the manager who had signed Allen from his former club. Why is it ridiculous that someone who’s clearly achieved less in a Liverpool shirt is the one out of the door? For the record, 127 games, seven goals, and nothing particularly memorable.
It’s hardly wilfully selling Luis Suarez is it?
There’s definitely a debate to be had about Henderson and his long-term contribution, and I’d be fine with a replacement. But that replacement isn’t Allen.
A good barometer when it comes to signing and selling players is the clubs who are interested in the player you’re trying to buy or sell.
At the time of writing we look to have real interest in two midfielders: Piotr Zielinski from Udinese and Mahmoud Dahoud from Borussia Monchengladbach. Zielinski is attracting interest from Napoli, who finished second in Italy last season and will play Champions League football next season, while Dahoud is attracting interest from Dortmund. Napoli and Dortmund are two sides that are unarguably positioned above us at present — competing with them for players is absolutely fine.
What of Joe Allen? Chelsea? Manchester United? Manchester City? Arsenal? Spurs? Barcelona? Juventus? Real Madrid?
Err, no, not quite.
Swansea City for £10m appears to be the most likely end result. Is that the level we should be batting at? Thinking about lads who interest Swansea as serious first-team footballers?
I know this may look to be a very basic way of analysing things, but do you think any of the lads at Swansea (no disrespect) are going to push this side on a level? I don’t, so why would you want to stick someone in your side every week that they’re going to put in theirs?
Some people will shout, “squad player.” If he’s not good enough to start every week, send him somewhere else — that goes for any player we’ve got.
If the manager isn’t confident in them starting 30 games next season then show them the door. We accept mediocrity too willingly; we’re all guilty of it with one player or another.
Klopp has a job on — a job that involves putting Liverpool back at the top level of English and European Football. Don’t accept second best. Joe Allen is a walking, talking, football-playing metaphor of exactly this.
We’ll always have that assist at Stoke in last season’s League Cup semi-final though. Yeah, he did mean it. Don’t @ me.