The 22 year-old Wales international midfielder earned rave reviews last season for his part in Swansea's success story and has been earmarked as a long-term acquisitionCOMMENT
By James McManus
"You train dogs," said Brendan Rodgers in his first interview as Liverpool manager. "I like to educate players."
His brightest pupil, more indoctrinated in the 'Rodgers way' than any other at Swansea during the Northern Irishman's two-year tenure in South Wales, was Joe Allen, and as exclusively revealed by Goal.com, the 22-year-old is set to follow his teacher to Anfield, to spread the word and the ball.
The Welsh midfielder enjoyed a breakthrough campaign last term in his first full season in the top flight for Swansea under the stewardship of Rodgers, making 36 league appearances and impressing with his ability to dictate the tempo from deep.
Crucially, whenever talking about a Rodgers-style player, the quality that is looked for first and foremost is whether they are comfortable in possession and Allen certainly fits the bill.
|THE ALLEN KEY
|ALLEN'S CAREER STATISTICS
|CLUB GAMES PLAYED
Without trying to delve too deeply into the statistical analysis, Allen had a 91% pass completion rate last season, which bears favourable comparisons to the likes of Yaya Toure (90%), Luka Modric (87%), Mikel Arteta (91%) and Michael Carrick (90%) - the main ball-playing options in last season's top four.
When you take into account that Liverpool's best midfielder in this regard last season was Lucas Leiva (86%), who missed the majority of last season through injury, it becomes clear that a move for Allen signifies a step in the right direction, addressing an issue with the team's overall level of play and ability to keep the ball - an aspect absolutely central to Rodgers philosophy.
Liverpool have lacked a real top-class technician in the middle of midfield ever since Xabi Alonso left the club back in 2009 for Real Madrid.
There is a deliberate attempt being made to adjust and tinker with the club's style this year and in that respect, Allen fits the mould. He may have some way to go before being in the same calibre as Alonso, but the underlying principles of their game are worthy of comparison.
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There is a very clear emphasis on retaining possession not only as a means of attack, but as a form of defence and Rodgers has talked at great length about the topic before, stating: "I like teams to control and dominate the ball, so the players are hungry for the ball.
"A lot of our work is around the transition and getting the ball back very quickly. Because I believe if you give a bad player time, he can play. If you give a good player time, he can kill you. So our emphasis is based around our positioning both with and without the ball. And for us, when we press well, we pass well."
The most interesting aspect is the knock-on effect that it could have on Steven Gerrard's starting position next term. Having been praised for his more disciplined and somewhat reserved role for England during Euro 2012, he was widely expected to occupy the central slot alongside the returning Lucas Leiva in front of the back four, but it appears as if Rodgers still has plans to utilise his influential skipper further forward for the time being.
Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani looks set to be kept at the club this coming season, with his customary late loan swoop nowhere to be seen as of yet and has been tipped to play a part this term. However his role will be greatly reduced if he has to compete with Gerrard, Joe Cole and Jordan Henderson, for the role at the tip of the midfield triumvirate.
Allen has been likened to Henderson in many quarters, and while both are comfortable in possession, how they go about using the ball is very different, with the Welshman preferring to recycle the ball as quickly as possible, while the former Sunderland man is more willing to take the ball forward himself. There are, of course, some similarities between the pair, but with it being a squad game now, Henderson is still likely to play a pivotal role.
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The main person under threat by such a move, though, is undoubtedly Charlie Adam, whose time at the club looks to be coming to an end.
Despite there being a tangible end product present to his game, his penchant for Hollywood passes is only further highlighted by the fact that he had just an 80% pass completion rate last term and his almost chronic lack of movement can mean he struggles on occasion in a two-man central midfield. He clearly doesn't suit the high tempo style of play that Rodgers wants and which Allen fits into so neatly already.
The next point of order to look at is the nature of the somewhat exorbitant fee, especially in light of the fact that he has just one full season of top flight experience under his belt so far. It only serves to highlight the way in which you pay a premium for British talent, but is this move merely a continuation of the flawed transfer policy of the Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli regime?
Yes and no is the answer to that. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll were all rather worryingly bought off the back of one hugely successful campaign, so the temptation to compare those deals to the Allen one is obvious.
Yet again the club appear to be gambling with concerning moves in the transfer market and this near-constant obsession with planning for the future off the back of players 'potential' is a policy which has caused so much consternation for Arsenal fans with Arsene Wenger over the years.
If the deal goes through for the aforementioned fee, then that would mean that Rodgers has spent £25m on two players with less than 60 top flight games between them. Paying over the odds has become the Liverpool 'way' of late, but even by their standards, it's a deeply concerning trend. It is often said that Rodgers greatest quality is his confidence in his own ability, and his two moves in the market so far have both been extremely bold ones as he seeks to make his mark at the club.
Nevertheless, Allen is clearly a player on the up, having been selected for this summer's Olympic Games by Team GB coach Stuart Pearce and he looks set to play a key role for Wales in the future, not to mention looking comfortable against supposedly superior opposition last year for his club.
Nonetheless, the pressures, demands and expectations of playing for Liverpool far outstrip anything he will have become familiar with so far during his career, especially when you keep in mind the hefty price tag associated with any move.
In the aftermath of Swansea's 4-1 humbling at the hands of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season, Rodgers had this to say on Allen: "I always look at players, my own players and others, who have not experienced life at the top level and I wonder if any of them could play for a club like Chelsea... and certainly, I looked at Joe last Saturday and felt he was someone who could play at that level.
"There's no question about it for me, he has got those qualities with the ball that you need. He felt comfortable on the ball and technically he was exceptional in the game."
While potential future team-mate and international colleague Craig Bellamy was also effusive in his praise: "He is special. He has made so many key plays for Swansea last season. He's a Brendan Rodgers player, he fits Liverpool to a tee. If Liverpool are able to secure him, they will have a real gem of a player."
Any proposed move would contravene the 'gentleman's agreement' between the two clubs which stipulated that Rodgers would not return to his former club to buy any of his old players, but money certainly talks, and having already signed Michu and Jonathan De Guzman, new boss Michael Laudrup has readied himself for any potential departure.
Given his relative lack of top flight experience, the size of the fee involved and the fact that recent history certainly hasn't been kind to the club when buying from within the Premier League, caution has to be attached to any such deal and a degree of perspective prescribed when analysing its chances of success, for even in times of transition such as these at Anfield, the overriding importance of results is paramount.
Even so, Rodgers knows what he wants in a player and he knows which way he wants his Liverpool side to play next season. A move for Allen is predicated on the understanding that here is a player comfortably capable of making the step up in class and his familiarity with the methods and ethos at hand are a huge plus.
Conceivably, he could offer the current side something that has been sorely missing for quite some time now as the club continue to build for the future with Rodgers vision for the club firmly in place.
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