21-year old Joe Allen has been one of the main components in a Swansea team which has dazzled Premier League with some very good possession based football.
With good performances in Premier League this season, he broke into the starting line up of Wales national team under the late Gary Speed and for now, it looks as if his spot should be very secure.
According to WhoScored.com statistics based ratings, he has been Swansea’s best player this season with rating of 6,92 in fifteen Premier League appearances. He offers Swansea’s manager Brendan Rodgers very good flexibility in midfield as he is able to cover both defensive and attacking roles.
In a recent statistic, he was placed 7th in a table of passing accuracy for European top league players with over 1000 passes made (see the table here). His team-mate and once very highly regarded Leon Britton was first in that table ahead of Xavi, but for me Allen looked like the better player and talent in the game against Arsenal where they played together as a pair.
There have been reports of Liverpool and Manchester United interest in him but in media, a lot of the attention has actually gone to other Swansea players, but is that right? I don’t agree.
Report on Joe Allen
Personal Information (according to Transfermarkt.co.uk):
Name: Joseph Michael Allen
Date of Birth: 14.03.1990 (age 21)
Height: 168 cm
Current Club: Swansea City AFC (contracted until 30.06.2015)
National Team: capped for under 17’s, under 19’s, under 21’s and senior national teams
Basic Playing Information:
Positions: Defensive midfielder / Central midfielder / Attacking midfielder
Preferred Foot: Right
Statistics Of Last 3 Seasons (according to Transfermarkt.co.uk):
2011/2012: Swansea / Wales – 24 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, 1 red card, 1667 minutes played
2010/2011: Swansea / Wales – 50 games, 2 games, 1 own-goal, 6 assists, 6 yellow cards, 3688 minutes played
2009/2010: Swansea / Wales U21 – 27 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 yellow cards, 1533 minutes played
Games Watched When Making The Report:
1. Wales – Switzerland 2:0 (Euro 2012 qualifier, 07.10.2011)
2. Swansea – Tottenham 1:1 (Premier League, 31.12.2011)
3. Swansea – Arsenal 3:2 (Premier League, 15.01.2012)
Individual Game Descriptions:
1. Wales – Switzerland 2:0
Allen played as a central midfield, he was bit more held back than Aaron Ramsey who had more attacking responsibilities.
The game itself was balanced in the first half, but at the start of the second half Wales played well and also Switzerland fell down to ten men with Reto Ziegler getting straight red card. After that Wales took complete control of the game and scored twice.
Allen played whole game and had his part in the first goal where his pass created an opening in the Swiss defence which resulted in a penalty for Wales.
2. Swansea – Tottenham 1:1
Allen played as a deep playmaker in a 4-3-3 formation for Swansea. Most moves went through him but he didn’t get very high up the pitch.
Swansea dominated most of the game and deservedly got a draw with a goal late in the game. Allen was involved in the goal as his fabulous pass allowed Swansea’s full-back Rangel to get into good crossing position to put the ball into the box.
3. Swansea – Arsenal 3:2
This time Allen was used in a 4-2-3-1 formation and while he was deep playmaker in the game against Spurs, he showed his versatility by moving to a position behind the strikers.
Swansea and Arsenal played an open game as the result would suggest. He was involved in two of the Swansea goals – giving two great passes to Nathan Dyer in different situations. In first case Dyer earned a penalty and in second case scored from about 12-13 yards out.
Analysis of Joe Allen:
I knew little of what to expect when watching him, but I assumed he was a decent central midfielder who does a lot of passing but not much defending, but I was left very surprised at his ability.
He seemed to do well on either side of the ball and in all games, he was one of the best players on the pitch. While in Wales he was maybe bit less involved, for Swansea he was the key to everything. When other Swansea players seem to be bit more about physical side and are bit raw elsewhere, he is what made the team tick with his very good playmaking skills and intelligent play.
Good physical level for his role
He is a small player, less than 170 centimeters, but he has done a good job in making sure this is an advantage rather than something that holds him back in the physicality of Premier League.
Allen is not a player who will win many 100 meter runs, definitely not against team-mates like Scott Sinclair or Nathan Dyer, but his feet are reasonably quick with a good turn.
He is no sprinter, but he can still break fast for counter attacks and his ability to change direction, to stop almost immediately at high pace makes him very hard for defenders to get near to without fouling him. And he manages to cover the ball very well with his body when he has got someone on his back.
Allen is also capable of playing with a lot intensity. He seems to have an abundance of energy when running. He is constantly in movement, with or without the ball, almost never waiting for the ball to come to him or taking a breather. And he can keep it up for 90 minutes.
A clever player in the attacking phase…
Using his size to his advantage and intelligently positioning himself between the ball and the opponent is not the only things that indicate this player has got a good footballing brain.
On the ball he is incredibly calm and made only 1-2 passes where he tried to put the ball through an area where it was impossible to get it through.
He has incredible vision of what goes around him on the pitch, he reads his team-mates movements and on most occasions he seems to pick the best pass. That even in situations where he is in a very tight area with little time. But to praise him even more, he rarely gets himself into a situation where he can be rushed into a pass.
His intelligence is not only shown in playing with the ball. He always manages to make himself an outlet for team-mates with the ball – be it high up the pitch or dropping back to pick the ball from his defenders. He also works well to create space for others – on one occasion he and one other player could both go asking for a pass from Swansea defenders but he decided to move away from the ball, dragging an opponent with him and with that, creating free space and time for the other Swansea player who ended up getting the pass. And this was not one occasion thing, he did similar movement constantly to convince me that he does this for tactical reasons.
… and in the defensive phase
To add to this movement when Swansea has the ball, he is also good tactically when it comes to defending.
He keeps his discipline well and rarely finds himself out of position for the defensive phase. Even if he loses the ball in attack, he does his maximum to make sure the opponent cannot get a counter-attack. Against Arsenal Yossi Benayoun won the ball from him in the front of the Arsenal penalty area, but Allen managed to turn his back on Benayoun and block his run enough for his team-mate to get the ball before the midfielder. And it was not a blatant blocking in style of some old-school defenders but clever blocking as he picked the same trajectory for his run as Benayoun.
This vision to close down chances for opponents to run into space also showed in many other situations where it helped Swansea get the ball back and keep their high percentage of possession.
Another good part of his game shows itself when he faces player with the ball. He does well to force the opponent to play the ball into less dangerous area, often even making them pass the ball back to defence. He does well to close down passing options forward which could cause Swansea’s defence some problems.
One great occasion was against Tottenham when he forced Tottenham to start their attack all over by forcing them to pass back to defence on the right side of central midfield and just few seconds later, when Tottenham tried from the other side of the central midfield, he was there again forcing them to go back another time.
However at times he did show some headless running too, chasing opponents like a pit bull without actually ever looking like winning the ball. But he is usually very calm and calculated when defending and such incidents seem to be very rare occasions, maybe once in a game.
He usually prefers to stand one-two steps off opponents, forcing them to pass back by cutting options going forward or waiting for opponent to make the slightest of mistakes when trying to take the ball past him and then bouncing to win the ball. He makes a lot of good, strong tackles and interceptions. However on one occasoin, he was unlucky to see one of his interceptions fall onto the feet of a Tottenham player in case of Tottenham’s goal in the second game.
All this makes him a very useful player in defence but I could give him some criticism for the game against Switzerland in which he could’ve been better and more active in the defensive phase. There were some occasions when there was a too big gap between the defence and midfield of his team which player like him should potentially cover. Luckily it made no difference as the Swiss failed to utilise it.
Technically very capable
For all his good intelligence, quick thinking and vision, it’d be useless if he didn’t have a good technical side to gain maximum from those qualities and luckily, he does have a very good technical side paired with good confidence at the moment.
When he has the ball, it doesn’t get far from his feet, even when he is under pressure when making a first touch in situations like taking downs difficult balls from the air in a mix of players in midfield.
He can make passes and control the ball with both of the feet even if he does prefer his right foot if possible. His passing range is good, he can make short passes and give long diagonal balls with good precision.
He can play one-two’s, make difficult one touch passes, give long balls across the field and give very good through balls. He gets the ball through areas where there is only the smallest of corridor to get the pass through and on majority of the times, at the end of that pass which goes past 2-3 players, is a team-mate, who most players wouldn’t have noticed. It’s impressive how fast he can think with the ball and even more impressive how technically well-executed those quick decisions are.
He showed some signs of good skills as well, making one very impressive interception of long Arsenal pass with the outside of his foot. But good thing is that he doesn’t use any fancy tricks or moves unless it is the only option, he does what is necessary and most certain to succeed.
If there are questions in technical department then I’d say he needs to become more decisive, although he didn’t make many shots, it looked as if he could shoot better and maybe he needs to create more in attack for all his good ability. But for the later, I believe the team around him is of bit lesser quality than him, at least when it comes to players who are meant to put the final balls into the box and those who should find space in the box and score.
He showed to have a reasonable heading technique too but with his size he obviously won’t need it for more than an occasional knocking down the ball for a team-mate.
What level is he now:
I think he is on a very good level right now. I would even go as far as saying that if he’d be put into a possession-orientated big team, he wouldn’t look out of place, at least based on the games I saw in Swansea where he was the most important cog in the team, rarely making a mistake.
But that is only based on those games, it might very well be that he is still bit raw in some games which I have not seen, where he might play with less confidence. And maybe someone constantly pushing him would cause him problems. But if I was an opponent manager, I’d definitely tell my players to make sure to pressurize him as much as possible because otherwise he is going to create problems for any team.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a player that could be ready for a big team, the interested Liverpool and even Manchester United could definitely improve with him in midfield, but playing in Swansea won’t harm him either.
What level might he reach:
If he is to move to a big team, I think he could prove himself to become one of the best playmakers in whichever league he moves into.
I do not think there is much missing from his game and under Rodgers he will get better. But for player like him, it is obviously hard to predict as confidence plays very big part in a technical playmaker like him. If he makes a wrong move in his career, it might ruin him, but I think he has the capable ingredients to make an impact even under less than perfect circumstances.
If I had to pay 10 million euros rating: 8/10
A bit of an incredible rating by me indeed, especially considering his real price-tag is maybe even less and he isn’t highly rated by the media, but I am a fan of him after watching him closely. He impressed me in almost every possible way, be it his passing, his technique, his intelligence, his defensive side or work rate.
He can play almost any position in central midfield minus a pure play-breaker role. I think he is worth a risk and could grow to be worth a lot, lot more. On top of that, for now he wouldn’t command a big wage.