by Daisy Cutter
Yet another small fortune splurged on yet another one season midfield wonder? Have Liverpool learnt nothing? And besides, Joe who? He can’t be that good if all the Welsh plaudits are exclusively reserved for Aaron Ramsey. What chance do they have in closing last season’s seventeen point chasm between themselves and a top four spot if they’re going to continue targeting over-hyped under-proven potential? Especially when their rivals – and those they hope to again consider as rivals – are hoovering up Europe’s best creative talent in Hazard, Kagawa and Cazorla.
Such has been the thoughts aired by some this week to the news that Anfield’s moneymen are trying to wrap up a deal for Swansea’s Joe Allen in the region of £15m and whilst everybody is entitled to their opinion it’s really not my fault if those opinions are hopelessly, embarrassingly wide of the mark.
For Allen is a scintillating, gifted prospect, blessed with two quick feet that keep up with a sharp, precocious mind. His style is that of energetic elegance combined with a surprising amount of tenacity from a lad with such a slender frame. His vision alone is worthy of the fee but that is nothing compared to the ethos behind each release of the ball – Allen has been drilled like the Manchurian Candidate into believing that giving away possession is a cardinal sin and to do so cheaply is an insult to the game he loves. While the magical Hazard and Cazorla and co may well catch the eye more with their flicks, tricks and penetration in 2012/13 there is no single player that will improve a team more substantially than the arrival of Allen to LFC and that includes van Persie and Hulk should their mega-bucks moves transpire.
This is because the others are extravagant upgrades on projects that are already well established whereas Allen represents an entirely new start.
For fifteen million – or more likely closer to twenty once negotiations are ultimately concluded – the reds will finally have a player to best compliment the rampaging lung-busting Gerrard and the classy shield Lucas, a consummate artisan who is integral to the high-pressing, tika-taka philosophy that Brendan Rodgers is determined to implement.
It is a role that Dalglish correctly identified as requiring priority surgery and earmarked for Charlie Adam. Right prognosis, wrong player. The £6 switch of Adam to Anfield was doomed from the start with even the thinking behind the targeting of the player deeply flawed. Bought with a quasi-moneyball eye on his impressive assists stats to play at the heart of a team already well staffed with set-piece specialists, and for his passing that often flattered to deceive at Blackpool, Adam has disappointed greatly. His propensity to send awry a Hollywood pass was the source of many a groan on the Kop last season and even basic ball retention broke down all too often from his cumbersome instep.
The same criticisms can be levelled too at Jordan Henderson but to a lesser degree. At least the Wearsider has youth on his side, promise evident, and has the ability to keep things neat and tidy when not forcing matters.
Neither though can orchestrate Liverpool to a pass and move echo of their halcyon days whereas Allen undoubtedly can and while Henderson is excused an errant pass or ineffective outing due to his tenders years it is worth pointing out that both players are the same age. At just 22 years of age the down-to-earth boy from Carmarthen wholly embodied Rodger’s glorious Barca-lite football last season, more so even than Leon Britton and though I am not for one moment belittling the little maestro Britton’s uncomplicated link-up play can be replicated in others. Allen’s sweeping, stylish foraging cannot and requires a rarer pedigree that is now ready to showcase itself on the bigger stage.
His signing should be cherished by the Anfield faithful as they embrace the forthcoming Rodgers revolution because in this one player the coach’s beliefs will be made flesh and blood; controlling, patrolling, and scheming them into reality.
The spectre of the need to qualify for the Champion’s League will no doubt loom throughout the year ahead like an overbearing parent in a rom-com flick – ‘You should marry a doctor. Settle down. You can’t live on love alone’ – but the kid in his burgeoning pomp will offer the romance to allow Rodgers time to see things through. He is that good, a fact that us Welshies have known for quite awhile and frankly it’s about time others caught up.
Last season Kenny Dalglish attempted to construct an expensive flat-pack assembly kit of a midfield. As is always the case in such matters the kit was missing an Allen key.