Aug 11, 2012, 8:00 AM EDT
When manager Brendan Rodgers moved to Liverpool, there was speculation the former Swansea City boss would raid Swans for their better players; specifically, Joe Allen, Leon Britton, and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had just finished a loan spell in Wales. That speculation was quickly cooled when Rodgers, shortly after his move to Anfield was announced, said there was an agreement that Swansea players wouldn’t be pursued. In fact, he told BBC Radio, that keeping Swansea strong was a factor in his request Swans be handsomely compensated for this services. Nice chap, that Rodgers.
Fast forward two months and all bets are off. Liverpool’s approaching the end of a preseason where their midfield has looked little better than last year’s, leaving Rodgers searching for answers. The system he’s implementing can’t get by with merely a “that will do” midfield. He needs men who can move the ball.
A quick look to Rodgers’ old stomping grounds saw Sigurdsson had moved to Tottenham while Britton’s one month short of his 30th birthday. Allen, however, is only 22 and (last season) was nearly as accurate with his passes as Britton. Allen’s 91.2 completion percentage was third among regular Premier League starters, behind only Britton (93.1) and … John Terry (91.3)?
The numbers obviously require some context. Swansea’s system seemed to play into the their players’ success, with Chelsea loanee Josh McEachran posting a 94.8 in his limited time with Swans. But at it’s most basic, incontrovertible level, the numbers say that Joe Allen was very good at getting the ball where he aimed. Compare that to Liverpool’s most successful passer (among players who started at least half their league games): Stewart Downing, who completed 85.4 percent of his passes (and can’t play through the middle for Rodgers).
With that need, Allen’s age, and the midfielder’s production, the $23.5 million Liverpool paid Swansea sounds about right, even if Rodgers cedes he would have paid more. Come Friday, it didn’t matter, with Allen finally confirmed at Anfield. It’s a huge intake for Swans, a needed buy for Liverpool, and a good fit for both coach and player.
The deal makes so much sense, it’s a shame it couldn’t be completed sooner. Now, Allen’s going to be dropped into the Liverpool setup only one week before the games start to count.
For Rodgers, he gets a midfielder with whom he’s familiar – on whom he can count. As he goes through his first season trying to decide whether his changes are working, which players he’s inherited don’t fit, and what he needs to continue Liverpool’s overhaul, Rodgers can be confident in the knowledge that when things are going right, Allen works.
For Allen, it’s the logical next step in his career. He’s 22 has proven what he can do for a club in the Premier League’s bottom half. The next step is similar to his manager’s: Prove he can do it for a club competing for things. If he performs well, the league’s elite will come knocking.
And for Liverpool, you can now see the potential for a textbook three-man midfield. A healthy Lucas Leiva can serve as the ball-winner. Allen would play the worker who retrieves and connects, while Steven Gerrard (the obligatory Steven Gerrard) can craft the final ball.
Promises are nice, but when you have a chance to had that midfield? And your old club gets $23.5 million?
Who needs promises when you can have solutions?
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