SOME players symbolise a manager’s philosophy of how they believe the game should be played. His performances on the field, abject and indifferent or controlled and sophisticated, often mirror our opinions of the man in charge.
When Brendan Rodgers came to the club and signed ‘the Welsh Xavi’ Joe Allen, eyebrows were raised. We remained guarded, yet open minded about him – much like our eloquent new coach.
We have talked about transition and a new era on this site many times before, and Allen’s walking a tightrope at the moment. To many he was found out after a well below-par showing at Old Trafford. His normally astute passing game has been showing signs of rust for some time now. Opponents play a high pressing game against him, harassing and bullying him out of possession, and this increases the value of an overworked Lucas who often needs to act as the Polyfilla – filling the cracks the young Welshman leaves behind.
Of course Rodgers has shown unwavering faith in his midfield pivot. When Match of the Day dullard Alan Shearer criticised the former Swansea middle-man saying that he doesn’t play risk passes, the Reds gaffer came out swinging: “I saw something criticising Joe for not playing risk passes. Unbelievable. Our so-called pundits who don’t know the dynamics of a team and how it functions. Joe will prove an absolute bargain”. That was in October when he was the conductor and fulcrum of the side.
His form has dipped alarmingly since then so as honest and genuine his defence was, his role and importance in the side has decreased since the return of fan favourite Lucas. His presence on the bench during the 5-0 demolition of Norwich City was due to the re-emergence of Jordan Henderson who is finally starting to prove his worth to the side and was endemic of his recent fortunes.
The two are very different players; the former Sunderland man has been a constant source of energy and dynamism lately, injecting a sense of immediacy into the side. Allen’s calmer, more measured approach to the game means he often dictates the pace of how the side plans to break down opposition defensive barriers. Predictably, this rightly or wrongly makes him the scapegoat when results don’t go to plan.
The added verve in our attack after Daniel Sturridge’s bright start to his Reds career should add to our forward pass options. There is nothing wrong with going backwards or sideways if that is the pass that is available. As a deep-lying midfielder and with the advancements in tactical play in the league, the defence-splitting pass is not always on; were we criticised Charlie Adam for hitting too many, the young Welshman doesn’t hit enough.
Sturridge and Luis Suarez have the strength and movement to be found from deep if they are found down the channels. The best midfielders play with a rhythm…slow, slow, quick. If Allen adds the ‘quick’ to his game, which I believe he is capable of doing, he will be just fine.
Joe Allen has split opinion with the Reds faithful; invariably you will find that if you back Rodgers you back Allen and vice-versa. Neither would receive a glowing report card for their early efforts at the heart of the club but all is not lost and it has not been all doom and gloom. As we teeter from the sublime to abject and back again, progress has been slower than some would wish.
With Inter Milan starlet Phillipe Coutinho possibly ironing out the formalities over his move to the club it will be interesting to see how “the Ferrari” as Mina Rzouki in The Mirror describes him, will fit in. It will be exciting to see another attacking threat in the squad – where he will fit in will be a cause of debate.
When the season gallops on towards the business end and two transfer windows have passed, then will be the time to assess the Rodgers blueprint and more accurately define Joe Allen’s future at the club. But for now, their half-term report would read “good ideas but plenty of room for improvement.
As always, your comments are welcome.
Live4Liverpool is recruiting columnists. For further info contact the site editor at email@example.com