THE pre-season transfer talk is in full effect. Newspapers, magazines and websites are coming down with pieces of transfer tittle-tattle, rumours of impending moves and shock signings for one club or another.
Liverpool Football Club are no different, in fact if anything we’ve been linked with more players this transfer window than most, with plenty of wild stories doing the rounds.
It’s gotten so bad in the last week or so that Sky Sports hit a new low by suggesting that the club would be interested in re-signing Ryan Babel, who’s been put on the transfer list at Hoffenheim by former Red, Markus Babbel.
The transfer rumour mill exists to sell newspapers and drive traffic up on websites; it exists to offer people a little bit of excitement and a few talking points during the summer to whet the appetite for the coming season.
We all know, or should anyway, that most of the talk is bluster and that anything which remains unconfirmed or is gleaned from a less than reliable source i.e. the national press, should be taken with more than a pinch of salt.
As mentioned above, Liverpool have been linked with an extraordinary amount of players so far this window. This is for a number of reasons: because Brendan Rodgers has just taken over at the club, because the press are linking targets from the previous regime and throwing in Swansea’s former targets. The fact that the new LFC Scouting team isn’t yet properly in place and that Brendan Rodgers and co. have remained impressively tight-lipped over potential targets, has also helped to further confuse the media and, as a result, they have been linking us with anybody and everybody.
There are a couple of names, though, that just refuse to go away in all of this. The first was Fabio Borini, whom Rodgers made his first signing since coming to Anfield. Another however is Joe Allen. Allen currently plays for Swansea City and is currently on Olympic duty with Great Britain. The Joe Allen story has been rumbling along for a number of weeks now and it has aroused much debate over whether or not he is a player that Liverpool should be trying to sign.
Allen plays in the centre of midfield; a position where Liverpool seemingly have plenty of options. However, when you look a bit more closely, while there are options there, there isn’t that much quality. Alberto Aquilani may well leave the club before the window closes. Despite what he has said about wishing to prove himself at Liverpool, it is highly likely that if a club comes in with an acceptable offer the Italian will be on his way. Charlie Adam may well find himself moving on too and, even if he does stay, isn’t the long-term answer in the centre of midfield. Often deployed as a deep lying midfielder for Swansea last year, Allen can operate as an attacking midfielder and on the right of a midfield trio, which adds versatility to his list of attributes.
Jordan Henderson may well, in time, develop into a top class central midfielder, but he isn’t one yet and Jonjo Shelvey isn’t quite ready to be relied upon fully just yet. Gerrard is back at full fitness and looks set to play a major role this year but exactly where Rodgers will choose to deploy him is up for debate. Lucas Leiva is, quite rightly, one of the first names onto the team-sheet when fit, but Lucas needs a partner and when injured, a completely assured replacement. Jay Spearing is not up to the job and, apart from Europa League and League Cup, could find his opportunities in the first team limited in the coming season. Allen however, fits the bill perfectly.
Everyone’s heard that Allen is a great passer of the ball and that he had great stats in that department last year but let’s have a look at these and some other lesser known stats. Allen’s pass completion rate was 91.2%; that makes him the second best passer in Europe, behind Xavi of Barcelona – tidy in anybody’s book.
Then there’s the defensive contribution which Allen would make to the Liverpool side, should he sign. Losing Lucas was a massive blow for us last season. Some fans didn’t realise how big a miss he would prove to be when he sustained the injury, however, having seen what happened to the side’s form and that of certain individuals in his absence, no fan should now be under any illusions of his worth. Lucas was out from the 2nd December – that’s five and a half months – and he still recorded the second most tackles made by a Liverpool player all season. Jay Spearing tried his best to be an adequate replacement, but he fell short; Lucas’ are pretty big boots to fill. Joe Allen however, although likely to play in tandem with the Brazilian should he sign, can also step in and replace him if needed.
Allen made 110 tackles in the Premier League for Swansea in 2011/12. Only two players in the league made more successful tackles. This number means that Allen made over forty more tackles than any Liverpool player managed in the campaign. He made a successful tackle every thirty-five minutes and won a ground 50/50 every fourteen and a half minutes, statistics which leave the likes of Carrick, Song , Arteta and even Yaya Toure, trailing in his wake. People moan about stats playing too big a part in football and, to some extent perhaps they do, but in Allen’s case the stats merely back-up what we saw with our own eyes last year.
Brendan Rodgers has worked with Allen at Swansea for a number of years and obviously knows the player inside out. He rates him, he is sure that Allen is good enough to come and ply his trade in Red at Anfield. For me, that’s good enough. When the Swans played at Anfield last season they received a standing ovation. They all played well that day but Joe Allen was in a different class. Liverpool could not get the ball off the Welshman and he dictated the tempo of the game for large periods. Anyone who can come to Anfield at 21/22 years of age and do that has got a massive future in front of them.
If Liverpool can get the deal done, which Rodgers has confirmed they would like to, Joe Allen represents hardly any risk and in fact, could be a vital component in Brendan Rodgers’ plan. Allen’s experience playing the system under Rodgers at Swansea will be invaluable with helping the side gel and adjust and, with the scouting team not fully in place as of yet, the bond of trust between Rodgers and Allen which obviously exists already, is a big upside to the potential transfer.
The one stumbling block which may prevent the deal going through is Swansea’s reported £15million valuation of the player. Liverpool don’t want to pay more than £10million and, with Allen allegedly very keen to join Rodgers at Anfield, a bargain is likely to be struck between the two clubs before the window closes. Let’s hope so.
Stats from Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com
You can catch Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 & on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/