After a summer-long chase, Liverpool have finally confirmed the purchase of Joe Allen from Swansea City in a deal rumoured to be around £15m. The 22-year-old moves to Anfield on a long-term contract and his acquisition is a significant step in Brendan Rodgers’ rebuilding of the Merseyside giants for the season ahead:
Allen’s arrival continues his manager’s policy of turning to former players as Rodgers looks to implement his 4-3-3 system at Liverpool, with the midfielder following Fabio Borini to the club. Having admitted on Thursday evening that the deal was “imminent”, Rodgers was full of praise for what the new boy will bring to the club this upcoming season:
This boy, when you see him play, you would think he was a European player. He is a unique player in that he is a British player who doesn’t give the ball away. You will see when he comes into this team the difference he can make. He’s incredible on the ball. His body work and intelligence for a 22-year-old is frightening. His game understanding is very good, and he is in love with the football. He wants the ball all the time, and he has so much courage to get on the ball and play. I think he will fit in really well with all the other clever players we have at the club.
Snapped up by Swansea at the age of nine, Allen made his way through the club’s youth system and was handed his debut for the club at the age of 16 by then-manager Kenny Jacket . His first couple of seasons at the Liberty Stadium saw the youngster make just seven league appearances and he was subsequently sent out on loan to Wrexham in the 2008-09 campaign – returning to his parent club, he made 23 appearances over the campaign after injuries to others promoted him to the first XI.
Although he has also played under Roberto Martinez, it was Rodgers who finally afforded Allen a chance to cement his place as a regular for the Welsh club. The Irishman arrived in July 2010 and immediately identified Allen as a crucial component of the midfield three; over the past two seasons, the 22-year-old has missed just five league matches, scoring six times and providing nine assists over 76 games. Allen has represented his country from Under 17 to Under 21 level on 28 occasions and found the net three times and has eight caps for the senior side.
With Lucas already installed in the heart of the Liverpool midfield, Allen’s ball-winning ability and intelligent possession game looks a dream partnership for Rodgers’ patient passing approach. His arrival will surely place question marks against the future of a number of Reds’ midfielders; Charlie Adam, in particular, looks at risk, with his propensity for “Hollywood” passing somewhat at odds with Rodgers’ approach, while the likes of Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey also seem set to tumble down the Anfield pecking order.
In terms of Liverpool midfielders, however, this move could promote Steven Gerrard in our thinking. With Lucas and Allen sitting deep and shielding the back-four, the Reds skipper looks set to be handed a more attacking role in Rodgers’ system – tucked in behind Fabio Borini, he could, potentially, scale the heights of previous seasons, with spot-kicks and a major portion of set-pieces in his locker, too. Currently, Gerrard has just 3.6 ownership in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) compared to Luis Suarez’s 13.6%, despite both players costing 9.5.
A return of four goals and four assists over 36 appearances last season suggests Allen’s contribution won’t have too many Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers rushing to snap up his services – coming in at 5.5, there are surely better options available for a similar price. His appeal in the Sky Sports game, however, is another matter entirely; the new bonus system, which rewards players who make 60+ passes and/or 4+ tackles in any given game is set to boost his potential – a valuation of 5.8 is more than budget-friendly.
Liverpool’s start to the season is likely to deter many from investing in their assets, though. Rodgers welcomes City, Arsenal and United to Anfield in his first three domestic home games in charge of the Reds; the Irishman could hardly ask for a more difficult opening schedule in his quest to improve upon the dire eighth place finish under Kenny Dalglish in 2011/12. With trips to West Brom and Sunderland also on the agenda by Gameweek 5, it’s no real surprise that only four of their players currently have over 5% ownership in FPL. Investment will no doubt leap from Gameweek 6 onwards when the fixtures look far more appealing and if Liverpool can get off to a strong start, plenty Fantasy managers will be scrambling to grab a piece of the action.
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For Gameweek 38
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas