13 Oct 2012

Steve Nicol insists: Joe Allen can become a 'legend' like Ray Wilkins

Earlier this week, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers indirectly slammed 'so-called pundit' Alan Shearer for his misguided assessment of Joe Allen on a recent edition of 'Match of the Day'. For some reason, Allen's role seems to be misunderstood by fans, ex players and pundits alike, but Liverpool Icon Steve Nicol is confident that Welshman can go on the become a true legend at Anfield.

Discussing Allen's performances on ESPN last night, Nicol - who played alongside pass masters like Jan Molby, John Barnes during his career at Anfield- dismissed criticism of the 23-year old, and compared him to former AC Milan star Ray Wilkins. He said:

"He reminds me of Ray Wilkins, who was loved at Milan because of the way he played.

"In international football he was loved, but during his career in England people said ‘ he only passes sideways; he only passes backwards’.

"He’s a legend though, and there’s no reason that Joe Allen can’t follow in his footsteps".

The argument that Allen only passes sideways or backwards is becoming increasingly tedious. It's just not accurate in any way, shape or form (!), and if Allen plays 'cautiously' it's because that is the way he's been instructed to play by Brendan Rodgers.

The most important thing to note about Allen's style of play is this: he is covering for Lucas Leiva right now, which means he is not playing his natural game. Allen is Liverpool's defensive midfielder, and it's his job to do a lot of the ball-winning donkey work, just like Lucas does when he plays.

With that in mind, Allen's lack of attacking impact makes perfect sense. How can a defensive midfielder protect the back four effectively if he's making surging runs into the opposition box?! Is this what Lucas does? NO, yet he is revered by Liverpool fans.

Nicol seems to have changed his mind about Allen over the last couple of months. In August, the former New England Revolution manager admitted that he wasn't enamoured with the signing. He told ESPN:

"I'm a little surprised. Joe Allen is a good player, but he's not a goalscorer, and he doesn't have too many assists either.

"He keeps the ball well, and picks up good spots defensively but that's about it.

"For me, I would've been much happier if Brendan Rodgers tried Henderson before spending 15m on Allen. I'm not convinced".

Rodgers believes that, in time, Allen will be seen as an 'absolute bargain', and I'm sure he's right.

Jaimie Kanwar


  1. I agree Allen has been a great buy. His role recently has been to fulfil the tactical plan of Rodger's, concentrating on keeping possession and wearing down the opposition and he has done this excellently. However, there is always room for improvement and some of what Shearer said was fair, as although he is without doubt fantastic at maintaining possession there are occasions when he opts to play a very short pass backwards when there are better options in front of him.

  2. Leon Britton played Defensive midfield for Swansea last season NOT Allen. Joe Allen has displayed a versatility and tactical understanding that allows him to play both deep and advanced. This kid knows how to play both roles and adjusts his game and passing range accordingly.

    Playing in front of the back four is a tough job, not anyone can do it. The player who plays this role has to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time whilst having arguably the soundest of 1st and 2nd touches in tight situations...he has this in abundance.

    Gone are the days when central midfielders just bombed in to the box hoping for the best.

    Off subject, I thought Jonjo looked commanding last night when he came on. If he improves on the tactical side of his game to match his technical ability he's going to be some player.

  3. It's easy to blame a player for passing sideways or backwards from the stands and, in a way, it is understandable. But as soon as someone plays a competitive match at any level himself (or herself of course), they will understand that all-out attack or being direct are tactics that very few teams will be successful with.

  4. I mean Lucas is better at his position than him. If he cannot assist and score, he is not useful if Lucas is back.

  5. sometimes the players are only as good as the instructions given to them by the manager. ie lucas, and allen in our current squad.
    henderson had a good game for england under21s, almost forgot he had talent and knew where the goal was.
    as for shearer, what a great player, but now a misserable bitter man who just ass licks the top 2 teams

  6. I had a little chuckle reading this article Jaimie. Correct me if i am wrong here. But, were you not vilfying Lucas for the same reason a few years. Saying he offers nothing going forwards and tends to play sideways and backwards??? :) Memories are indeed short. I dont disagree and wonder why ex pundits put the boot knowing full well why they play the way they do in these roles. In fact, i wonder what agenda these ex players have when as ex pros know better than joe blogs what goes on on the pitch and in the dressing rooms. I honestly think Steve Nicol likes the sound of his own voice. Is he critical of his own career due to a lack of gls n asissts? No, because it wasnt expected of him. They really should get of the backs of these young players. After the hell Lucas went through. You would have thought theyd learn that we all get it wrong. Times are tough. Sniping from ex pros does the club no good and tarnishes the memory of their great careers by looking a jealous bitter old man.