Brendan’s £15m Meal – Was Joe Allen an unnecessary ingredient?

David Stanyon explains how Brendan Rodgers‘ signing of Joe Allen this summer might have been a case of an ingredient that wasn’t required, given the resources already available.

There’s something which just wasn’t sitting too well with me, & with my every effort I really did try to support the concept of it I just couldn’t see the application.

I could be talking about Jamie’s 15 minuet meals, where Jamie Oliver takes undercooked, still “mooing” filleted beef, adds some modern micro salad leaves dripping in Balsamic Vinegar & then serves it up on a sanded floor board salvaged from the barn on Jimmy’s Farm, the 3 components don’t quite go but he’s the Chef right? What’s next serving meals on a paving slab from his driveway?

That wasn’t quite my quandary; it’s not quite the component mismatch that wasn’t sitting right & after the recent 3 Liverpool performances away to Manchester United, Arsenal & Man City its became both evident & confusing.

rodgers_teamtalk

When Brendan Rodgers became Liverpool manager all the buzz words from last season were replaced with new hope filled words; transition was replaced with philosophy; pass and move became Tiki Taka; and who could forget “death by football”.

The summer transfer window was nothing short of amateurish, fortunately, the January signings of Daniel Sturridge and Coutinho has give validation Tom Werner & John Henry’s words of “putting it right” and have in some way repaired the August debacle.

The shortage of transfer funds in the summer raised eyebrows, but the fresh start of a new manager put those financial questions on the backburner as he had a squad far better than that he worked with in his previous appointments.

The departures of Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez were all surprising given their football abilities to play in a 4-3-3 fluid system but not so surprising giving the “wages” that could be “saved”. All three seem to have been heading out before Rodgers took over.

This left Luis Suarez and new boy Fabio Borini as the only forwards at the club. The midfield, on the other hand, had an abundance of talent that Rodgers could have only dreamed about at other clubs; Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Aquilani, Shelvey, Adam, and wee Jay Spearing.

In 2011/12 only Barcelona from the top 5 leagues in Europe had more proportion of play in the final third than Liverpool, with our top League scorers Suarez 11, Bellamy 6, Gerrard 5, Carroll 4, Maxi 4 while Kuyt & Adam chipped in with 2 a piece.

From that list above only Suarez and Gerrard were able to continue into 2012/13, it’s conclusive we had the play, we had the shots (4th best in the league), we just didn’t have the ability to put the ball in the back of the net, creating the attack wasn’t the issue, it was finishing the attack.

The midfield emptied of Aquilani, Adam and Spearing as loan signing Nuri Sahin and £15m Joe Allen arrived with excitement. The “Welsh Xavi” taking up 50% of a below par transfer budget in an area that was not key to strengthen given the previous season’s lack of goals and player departures from an attacking point of view.

By all attempts Clint Dempsey didn’t fit a “profile” and Daniel Sturridge was looked at as a loan possibility only.

Given all of the above its clear that with Rodgers’ ideas of a passing midfield, the evident need for goals and the shortage of budget, was it really wise to spend £15m (50% of our budget) on Joe Allen and not pursue Daniel Sturridge in the summer more seriously, or Demba Ba perhaps?

Yes hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Joe Allen

Joe Allen started his career at LFC well, ball retention and simplistic distribution being the main components to his game.

Lucas picked up an injury and Allen filled that void. Once Lucas returned Joe’s performances fell slightly but this was due to being held back in the defensive cover role while Lucas recovered. Rodgers assured us, now Lucas was back we would see a better Allen pushed higher up the pitch.

Allen was dipping, Gerrard looked lost at times trying to find his place or “zones” in this new 3-man system and Henderson and Sahin’s appearances were limited. Which worries me, here you have what Rodgers dubbed the “Welsh Xavi”, the England and England U21 captains, Turkish International Sahin and a much-improved Shelvey to select in a midfield 3, and it looked a mess. In an area that is key to the ideals in which Rodgers is schooled in. He should have the way his midfield should play nailed, no excuse.

If a manager claims to be bringing a solid defensive play to a side, you’d expect him to be clued up on defence, if a manager is claiming to want to play with out & out wingers you would expect him to know how to make wing play work, so the midfield is pivotal to the managers ideal that people hang onto, so why couldn’t he get it right? He works with the players, he trains them and he sees their pros and cons.

Sure we can all fire stats about, who’s passing where and how much % of passing Joe Allen has, but the fact remains that the midfield blend wasn’t right and it was apparent to me early on that perhaps Brendan was trying to accommodate his “go-to man” Allen, but maybe at a bigger expense.

Henderson’s confidence shattered? Jonjo’s appearances limited? Gerrard looking lost? And Nuri Sahin is now back in Germany with Jurgen Klopp questioning Rodgers use of him. A simple situation being made more complex by the need to play Allen.

It appears like the preference was given to tame the Gerrard beast and free up Allen to move forward, but it renders the skippers natural instinct to drive forward useless. Allen then wanders around looking lost, Gerrard is ineffective and Lucas is being bypassed through wide-play.

Therein lies the Jamie Oliver metaphor at the start of this, it’s been a mess at times, a few ingredients in the hands of an expert of these ingredients and it’s just at times been slapped on a board and hoped it tastes right.

Again why can’t a student of midfield passing not see his midfielder’s attributes? Is it again to accommodate Joe Allen? Are you telling me Sahin, Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson or Shelvey can’t pass simplistically and retain the ball between them? Of course they can.

I suggested a few months ago that Rodgers metal as a manager will be evident if he leaves Allen collecting splinters in his arse on the bench. Recently, to Rodgers credit, he has benched his guy and looked at more what fits better together, what ingredients go best with each other.

Was Allen a “standard” buy from his former manager? More than likely, but was that a chunk of the budget that could have been used on a Sturridge given the obvious lack of striker options. Perhaps Rodgers should have given the squad he had more of a chance, the revival of Jordan Henderson is proof of that, Downing too maybe?

allen_graphic

If you look at the graphic, Joe Allen so far this season has contributed to 2 areas better than that of Adam and Spearing from last season; one is the passing, the other mainly in losing. The stats show he has contributed nothing in an attacking sense demonstrating that his passing is “too safe”.

No league goals so far, not even a single shot on target or an assist.

I’m not saying Allen is a poor signing, or a bad player he just doesn’t seem to fit right into our midfield at the moment. Charlie Adam looked a class act in the Blackpool midfield but alongside Gerrard and co he looked lost, gave the ball away and committed needless fouls. The same has happened with Allen, it’s not a attack on Joe its a observation that’s apparent and one which has made Rodgers seem foolish early on – after all this is the area you would expect Rodgers to nail, the midfield.

“If’s” and hindsight are brilliant, but I feel that Rodgers would have been best suited addressing the area that needed it and not that in which he had an abundance of talent already.

rodgers_4

The recent performances at Arsenal and Man City have shown that the blend of the midfield 3 is right at the moment and long may it be given time to develop, even if it means that Rodgers’ man is on the bench. Allen needs to find himself and know what he is as a player, just as Lucas did a few years ago.

Sturridge’s impact at the top end of the pitch is credit to playing with a World class player like Suarez and feeding off that quality to open his box of talent up and it’s there for all to see. Allen on the other hand couldn’t open himself up when playing with Gerrard, whereas Henderson has fed off Gerrard and exposed his attributes to the skippers talent and its benefiting Jordan right now. The blend is right and it’s working.

A lesson I hope Rodgers has learned; forget the overcomplicating of ingredients to what you have, no need to throw it all together and hope it tastes right.

Open some bacon, get a bun and slap on some ketchup, because sometimes the right ingredients just work. Even if it does mean your favourite ingredient isn’t required.

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Straight talking passionate red from way up north, I started writing about 18 month ago for a few websites & now onboard with TIA. I write what I think & not what will make me popular; my articles are straight talking with a blend of humour & sarcasm at times. Healthy debate welcome. Follow on twitter @davidstan76 or visit my website at www.geordieraw.com.
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