In the game against Stoke, Dortmund and Bournemouth Joe Allen has stood out. Definitely deserving praise and priority consideration for the upcoming ‘crunch’ games. Especially with Henderson and Can injury setback, he is proving to be more than a capable replacement for either. Whether it’s due to Klopp’s personality or tactics, Allen is starting to live up to the ‘Welsh Xavi’ tag.
With such highly rated recent performances ironically coming towards his contract expiry, It’s no surprise some fan base, critics and ex-players are calling for a new lease to be handed to Allen.
That in my personal view would be mistake for 3 reasons.
Allen has been underperforming for several seasons in a Liverpool shirt. Once again it could be down to Rodgers tactics. However, Allen has not justified Rodgers faith in paying 15 mill and has been more misses than hits in the games he has played. His consistency level since his arrival at Anfield should be a huge concern for Liverpool fans, coach and the top brass if they are thinking of a new deal.
With time still left, and if Allen remains consistent in the new season, perhaps January next year would be the time to evaluate the situation. Hence rushing into a new contract over a few good games may not be ideal to assess if Joe Allen is a long term asset or a liability.
2) Physical Attribute.
In the recent game when Liverpool was 2-0 up against Southampton, there was two sides of Allen’s attributes. In the first half without any physical presence, Allen was freed up to make crucial passes. In the 2nd half with Wanyama’s brute force, Allen was bullied too easily that Liverpool’s midfield crumbled, the defence became vulnerable and Mignolet fumbled, to concede 3 goals and 3 points.
Comparing Xavi or Iniesta who have the same built as Allen is a grave injustice. Firstly the Spanish league is less physical. Second, these players possess the natural gift to change their game and spray defence splitting passes from the centre circle playing a holding role. Allen lack such vision and skills and most English teams will not afford ‘small’ players the smoothness and elegance of movements.
If Liverpool are going to raise the intensity on all fronts next season, Allen should be viewed as an injury prone re-signing.
3) Specialist Player
With Grujic making his Liverpool debut next season, it is mentioned he could be challenging Can, who is a similar box-to-box midfielder for a midfield spot. Hence rotating the role between them. That leaves the defensive midfield spot, which I doubt Allen will excel in.
If Liverpool are serious about challenging for top honours, it is time for the Reds to sign ‘specialist’ players. A solid defensive midfielder to break up play, a physical presence in offensive and defensive set plays and protect the defence from unnecessary pressure. Which is quite apparent with some of Liverpool’s losses this season.
Henderson could perform that role, but surely not Allen.
Liverpool can’t afford to remain sentimental and give fresh contracts to players based on few good performances divided by the number of years they have been on the books. And Liverpool have been on the back foot for too many years depending on players with average skills who shines once in a while.
The dilemma with Allen is, should Liverpool tie him to a new contract with a view to flog him off for a small profit, or let him walk away for nothing.
The verdict should be to let him go after his dues rather than getting stuck with another “Enrique’ scenario. Instead spread the resources for good players currently at Liverpool and let Klopp rebuild with his preferred signing.