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Analysis: The impact of Lucas’ return on Joe Allen

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Sami Faizullah provides an in-depth analysis on how Lucas’ return to injury will impact on the Liverpool midfield, and specifically by allowing Joe Allen to operate slightly further ahead in Brendan Rodgers’ midfield three. LAST week Lucas Leiva returned to action with the under 21′s following a thigh injury suffered at Anfield against Manchester City [...]

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OhYaBeauty

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This is well worth a read.
Thanks for the heads up. Sometimes I tune out the News Bot threads, but this really was a great read, even if it mostly echoed what some of us have been saying about Allen all along.
 

Doggie

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Can't wait to see Lucas back and match fit, I'm sure it will make a very big difference.
 

Hope in your heart

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Interesting read, but I hope we won't pin too many hopes on Lucas. That lad is completely out of form and match fitness, and will need weeks, if not months, to get back to his best. I for one don't expect him to be in full form before next season.

Hopefully I'm wrong, but I can remember Xabi struggling an awful lot of months after a nasty foot injury, before coming back to his best in his final season with us. As for Allen, he's only a young lad still finding his feet at top level. I for one won't expect anything from him for the time being. Any good match from him will be a huge bonus in my book (and by this, I don't mean shoving the ball right and left a thousand times per game), exactly like for Henderson, another young lad needing time to fully blossom into hopefully a good player.
 

Artrain

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Excellent read that Sami. I'm with Hope here though. Lucas will probably just test the waters in the first few games he plays. Once he retains full fitness and form, then we might be able to see all your analysis turn into reality. :)
 

mattyhurst

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Allen is used to a DM behind him his partnership with Leon Britton illustrates this perfectly, it's a shame Lucas was injured so quickly because it is around this time that the partnership between Allen and Lucas would be really blossoming.

But lets hope Lucas can get back to match fitness as soon as possible.
 

Zinedine Biscan

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Nice piece Sami. I've been saying the same thing about Allen for a while now.

A big question is, where does Sahin fit in all this (I agree BR will most likely play Gerrard as the third in that midfield 3)? Is going to merely be backup for Allen and/or Gerrard from now on, or does he have a bigger role to play?

Same point, to a lesser extent, for Henderson.
 

rupzzz

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Would anyone be willing to post the article itself in here? I can't get onto the TIA site at work due to us using IE (a version from the stoneages ofcourse) and would like to read it whilst tucking into my lunch.
 

norwegian wood

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Interesting read, which for me again raises the question: Should another defensive midfielder be a priority in the January window?

I thought we would get by with having Henderson filling in next to Allen, but it has become painfully obvious how vulnerable we are without someone to mop up in the transition phase after we lose possession. Without Lucas, we struggle to find the right balance, and we can't pin our hopes on someone who will need time to get properly match fit.
 

The Elusive 19th

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Would anyone be willing to post the article itself in here? I can't get onto the TIA site at work due to us using IE (a version from the stoneages ofcourse) and would like to read it whilst tucking into my lunch.
There you go.
Analysis: The impact of Lucas’ return on Joe Allen


By Sami Faizullah on November 27, 2012

Sami Faizullah provides an in-depth analysis on how Lucas’ return to injury will impact on the Liverpool midfield, and specifically by allowing Joe Allen to operate slightly further ahead in Brendan Rodgers’ midfield three.

LAST week Lucas Leiva returned to action with the under 21′s following a thigh injury suffered at Anfield against Manchester City in August. It was a set-back for the Brazilian who spent most of last season on the sidelines too. It may still be a week or so before we see the 25 year old in competitive action, but the implications of a return are irrefutable.
Brendan Rodgers’ side has a plethora of midfielders, so much so that he has the liberty to play midfielders at full-back, and full-backs on the wings. However, despite this privilege, Liverpool really have only one defensive midfielder, and that is the former Gremio man.
The man who has had to play as a makeshift defensive player, albeit an effective one, is summer signing Joe Allen. The Welshman had a good start to his Anfield career, but the past few weeks have seen his form deteriorate, the Chelsea game in particular was one which he was highly criticised for. Earlier on in the season, the ball seemed to stick to the 22 year old like magnet. His flaws, however, have been outlined in the past few weeks. Criticised for being too slow on the ball, and giving possession away cheaply.

Regardless of the recent decline in his form, one cannot deny that Joe Allen has been Liverpool’s best signing of the summer. It comes as no surprise as his exploits last season with Swansea alongside Leon Britton received high praise, which trickled down to his manager as well. Swansea fans feared, and expected, Rodgers to move for Allen sooner or later.
But the praise that the Allen and Britton partnership received (including the honour of being compared to the Xavi-Iniesta partnership), was vastly due to the set up employed by Rodgers at Swansea. Leon Britton sat deep (like Allen at Liverpool) while Joe himself moved further up the pitch in attack, while still maintaining his defensive duties. He was employed as a box-to-box midfielder. This ability to advance further forward and run at defences is something that Liverpool fans are yet to see. As Rodgers said himself last week:

“But you will see his flexibility in how he can play further up the field. He is really dynamic in that middle-to-final third and sometimes you see those little bursts when he breaks through and is exciting.”​
Many have said that a good goalscorer is the key to success, while others have outlined the need for a solid defence, personally I feel the midfield third is the most important part of any team, or any tactic.
Lucas Leiva was widely criticised early on in his career, and largely divided the Anfield faithful. It is only in Rafa’s last season and consequently Hodgson’s first that people began to take note. Lucas emerged as a first team regular and a crucial member of the side. He was a maturing player, and the former attacking midfielder was now being considered as an apt replacement for the void filled by the departure of Xabi Alonso (granted the two have different styles).

Before we go further in-depth into Lucas’ role in the team, it would be interesting if we could take a look at Joe Allen’s role currently in the side.
Even though Joe has been playing a deeper role than usual, which restricts him from adventuring forward, he has still maintained a commendable rate of passing. In the 13 Premier League games that Liverpool have played, Joe Allen has started and finished all of them, with an average passing rate of 91.7% (827 successful passes out of 902 attempted ones.
There have been claims that Allen has managed a successful passing rate primarily because most of his passes are backward, sideways and ‘pointless’. Statistics prove that 65% of his passes are played forward. Most of which are short passes, restraining himself from playing a long ball. This of course is characteristic of Rodgers’ style of play which discourages aiming long or “hoofed” balls upfield.

The above image illustrates Joe Allen’s passing game against Norwich where he completed 96% of his passes. His best so far this season. He completed 91 of his 95 attempted passes. As can be seen in the illustration, most of his passing was restricted to the middle of the pitch, rarely did he venture forward.
His defensive contributions too, have been impressive. The below image has been slightly tainted by his dip in form in the past few games, they still show a positive image.

Now if we compare this Joe Allen to the one that impressed viewers last season (based on the stats in this article posted on the official website (http://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/latest-news/joe-allen-the-opta-stats) the similarities are evident.
He had a passing success rate at Swansea of 91.2%, playing an impressive 2177 passes. Also an impressive stat is that he had a passing success rate of 85.5% in the opponents half. He won 74.5% of the tackles he attempted and 54.5% of his duels.
The statistics of the deep lying Joe Allen are in sync with the ‘flexible’ and adventurous Joe Allen of last season.
The potential return of Lucas can do the world of good for Allen, and Rodgers’ can take full advantage of the midfielder’s ability. The aspect that is important in a tiki-taka approach is the confidence and composure to play that same style of football in the attacking third of the pitch. There are improvements, and Suarez has settled into the system well, but the ‘advancement’ of Allen could improve the football further.
With Rodgers playing a 4-3-3, and its variations based on the phase of game and position of players, it is evident that Rodgers will be employing a 3 man midfield. We can identify a couple of options that Rodgers will be looking into for playing his trusted Welshman.
This midfield set-up is, in my opinion, the most likely to be implemented by Brendan Rodgers. It involves playing Lucas Leiva in a deep lying role with his main obligation being a defensive role, putting an end to oppositions attacks, while holding onto the ball to allow the advanced players to move into positions.

Joe Allen will be employed slightly ahead of him playing a more free role. This type of approach will utilise Joe Allen’s work rate and general skill to best effect. The blue box represents Allen’s ‘zone’, he will mainly be covering that area during the course of the game while strutting further forward in attack and dropping deep to assist Lucas and the defence when faced against an attack.
He will also be moving slightly wide but won’t be moving down the flanks. This wide movement is to cover the wide areas when the play is stretched.
The first defensive movement of Allen would be to defend ahead of Lucas rather than beside him, forming a sort of ‘double’ line of defence.

Allen will try to cover attacks in his ‘zone’ before slowly tracking back based on the advancement of the opposition, Lucas will cover Allen attempting to block any attack that penetrates through Allen’s zone.
The yellow lines are merely to provide explanation for the defensive movement, it is pretty clear that Lucas and Allen will track further back as the opposition advance.
In terms of attack, Allen will once again have a fair bit of freedom. For the sake of this article, I have assumed that Gerrard will be the third midfielder, this is the most likely scenario as well.

In an attacking phase as well, Lucas will sit back, allowing Allen to move further upfield to assist Gerrard. You can expect plenty of possession around the box with full-backs advancing forward and occupying the zone between the two blue boxes, pushing the wide men narrower and into the box. The full-backs will be providing the width with runs down the flanks.
Another aspect of Allen’s play seen at Swansea was his ability to take possession and run into the box with the ball. An approach that was characteristic of Steven Gerrard earlier. Gerrard though lacks the legs to move about as much now, while Lucas has to be deployed in a defensive position exclusively. Its Joe Allen, therefore, that has to keep the work rate of the team going, moving all around the pitch, playing as a box-to-box midfielder. He needs to advance forward while still dropping deep effectively.
With regards to his role in terms of dictating the play, Lucas will assume most of these duties, but Allen will still retain the duties of this role, in the attacking third. The movement of the wide men and strikers will be fairly narrow and there will be plenty of opposition defenders around to make it tight and restrict any openings. Allen will play an important role in breaking through this barrier.
The return of Lucas will lift the entire team. The man has played a significant part for the club in the past few seasons. The freedom he provides Joe Allen will show plenty of improvement in the performances and results. This box-to-box role made into one of the most highly rated midfielders in the Premier League. At 22, the former Swansea midfielder has his entire career ahead of him. The impact of Lucas’ return will take Allen to newer heights, and a new level of football, which will have its own impact on the fortunes of Liverpool Football Club.
Graphs and stats via squawka.com, tactical illustrations made at footballtactics.net.
 

Never Say Never

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See but Allen really isn't one to bomb forward and "run at defenders" both here and at Swansea. He's not really an attacking threat neither is Lucas. We're already a bit toothless and personally, I don't think having Lucas back would change our league position a whole heck of a lot. Yeah he'd brings some more defensive stability but we need someone who can play the incisive pass in the final third
 

Doggie

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See but Allen really isn't one to bomb forward and "run at defenders" both here and at Swansea. He's not really an attacking threat neither is Lucas. We're already a bit toothless and personally, I don't think having Lucas back would change our league position a whole heck of a lot. Yeah he'd brings some more defensive stability but we need someone who can play the incisive pass in the final third
Lucas will allow our more creative players to venture forward. His absence last season immediately impacted on Adam for example, who went from a string of MOTM performances to an utter disaster in the more defensive role.
 

WrinkledMind

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Good post Sami.

Never Say Never, its not just about allowing Allen or Gerrard to run forward but allow them time on the ball.
To create and to dictate the tempo.
Lucas allows that protection.The same way Mascherano did when he was with us.
 

The Elusive 19th

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we need someone who can play the incisive pass in the final third
Wouldn't Allen fit the bill? He is available for passes always and makes good/safe passes to others. He can provide through balls to people or keep rotating the play near the final third which would be very much required. If he wins the ball near the oppenents half-line rather than near our box, wont it make a difference to the attack?

With Lucas to stop the opposition attacks and sitting deep, we can have some one like Allen and some one who can burst and attack the box(someone like Gerrard of old days) - like an inverted triangle.
 

sami

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Thanks for reading and the feedback guys. Appreciate it:)

See but Allen really isn't one to bomb forward and "run at defenders" both here and at Swansea. He's not really an attacking threat neither is Lucas. We're already a bit toothless and personally, I don't think having Lucas back would change our league position a whole heck of a lot. Yeah he'd brings some more defensive stability but we need someone who can play the incisive pass in the final third
Firstly, the article was mainly focusing on what would happen to Allen rather than what Lucas would do. Lucas' role would require another article. But the thing is, Lucas is someone who has adapted into a defensive player, who can just control the entire midfield line and act as cover for the entire team ahead of him. When Liverpool are attacking you will see that the only player(s) behind Lucas will be one or both the centre backs. One full-back might also be next to him or just ahead of him with the other going forward. The other full-back that stays back is to provide the balance.
Lucas will effectively allow the entire team to go forward and keep on the attack while he stays back and can be trusted against an attack. He holds the team together while allowing more numbers in attack. It should be noted that this is what is happening now as well, but Lucas can 'hold' it together better.

Allen is someone who has an eye for moving forward, not constantly and not as much as, say Shelvey does, but his ability to keep possession and play neat touches and passes (which he does now) will be done in a more advanced area of the field, better allowing movement. Allen playing further forward won't see him getting more goals but will allow the rest of the team to attack better. Allen will probably play more through balls and key passes, something which he doesn't do now.
 

Never Say Never

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Wouldn't Allen fit the bill? He is available for passes always and makes good/safe passes to others. He can provide through balls to people or keep rotating the play near the final third which would be very much required. If he wins the ball near the oppenents half-line rather than near our box, wont it make a difference to the attack?

With Lucas to stop the opposition attacks and sitting deep, we can have some one like Allen and some one who can burst and attack the box(someone like Gerrard of old days) - like an inverted triangle.
That's just it though. Allen is the metronome. High pass completion of safe passes. He doesn't get into scoring positions, even when he played for Swansea. He's not going to unlock defenses with a cutting through ball into the box and he doesn't create a whole lot going forward. With Lucas's return I see us maintaining more possession but we won't carve out many more chances. I don't really like the tandem of Allen and Lucas. I rate Allen and Lucas both highly but I don't like them as a tandem. I'd much rather Lucas Gerrard and Sahin, with Nuri occupying Allen's position. He's more box to box and much much more dangerous than Allen. He also excels when coming from a deep position. To me that formation plays to all three players strengths. In teams that park the bus I'd replace Lucas with Allen.

There's a reason Swansea scored so few goals last season and it had nothing to do with finances. I don't see why people think Allen will start playing these incisive passed in the final third when he hasn't the majority of his career.

Thanks for reading and the feedback guys. Appreciate it:)



Firstly, the article was mainly focusing on what would happen to Allen rather than what Lucas would do. Lucas' role would require another article. But the thing is, Lucas is someone who has adapted into a defensive player, who can just control the entire midfield line and act as cover for the entire team ahead of him. When Liverpool are attacking you will see that the only player(s) behind Lucas will be one or both the centre backs. One full-back might also be next to him or just ahead of him with the other going forward. The other full-back that stays back is to provide the balance.
Lucas will effectively allow the entire team to go forward and keep on the attack while he stays back and can be trusted against an attack. He holds the team together while allowing more numbers in attack. It should be noted that this is what is happening now as well, but Lucas can 'hold' it together
See above.
 

sami

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That's just it though. Allen is the metronome. High pass completion of safe passes. He doesn't get into scoring positions, even when he played for Swansea. He's not going to unlock defenses with a cutting through ball into the box and he doesn't create a whole lot going forward. With Lucas's return I see us maintaining more possession but we won't carve out many more chances. I don't really like the tandem of Allen and Lucas. I rate Allen and Lucas both highly but I don't like them as a tandem. I'd much rather Lucas Gerrard and Sahin, with Nuri occupying Allen's position. He's more box to box and much much more dangerous than Allen. He also excels when coming from a deep position. To me that formation plays to all three players strengths. In teams that park the bus I'd replace Lucas with Allen.

There's a reason Swansea scored so few goals last season and it had nothing to do with finances. I don't see why people think Allen will start playing these incisive passed in the final third when he hasn't the majority of his career.



See above.
I'd disagree mate. Allen can play those occasional forward passes as well. His main game is to play short passes to keep the play moving, he will just translate that into more telling balls..occasionally. Otherwise he will continue to keep the ball moving, allowing players to get into position, holding the ball, but more advanced. When a gap opens up, he'll make a run in as well. Allen can really play well in a more attacking position, i'm confident.

And at the moment, I think Allen out of position has done a better job than Sahin playing in his favourable position. Personal opinion of course.
 

Never Say Never

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I'd disagree mate. Allen can play those occasional forward passes as well. His main game is to play short passes to keep the play moving, he will just translate that into more telling balls..occasionally. Otherwise he will continue to keep the ball moving, allowing players to get into position, holding the ball, but more advanced. When a gap opens up, he'll make a run in as well. Allen can really play well in a more attacking position, i'm confident.

And at the moment, I think Allen out of position has done a better job than Sahin playing in his favourable position. Personal opinion of course.
I think we'll have to agree to disagree, and it probably comes down to personal style. However I do agree that on current form, Allen is playing better that Sahin. I've just seen how devastating Nuri can be. And in regards to Allen, I just haven't seen the attacking side of him, even at Swansea, but it may come down more to how Brendan is having/had him play. Obviously Lucas = Dyer 2.0, Gerrard = Sigurdsson 5.0 and Allen = Allen. Just not enough goals from midfield. (People will say what about Xabi/Masch but we had a 20 goals gerrard and 25 goal torres in front of them, we don't have anything near that). I definitely respect your opinion and don't want to get into an argument, I just see it a bit different.
 

TippRed

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I fancy Suso to be better than either Allen or Sahin in that more advanced controler role.
Obviously he needs to be given the time to develope though.
He can take the ball in and redistribute it with ease and rarely makes the mistake of over complicating it if its not needed BUT if needs be can switch on the magic and thread the eye of a needle.
He can also burst into space and goes past players.
I think if he gets his shooting boots sorted out he will be world class in that position.
 

sami

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I think we'll have to agree to disagree, and it probably comes down to personal style. However I do agree that on current form, Allen is playing better that Sahin. I've just seen how devastating Nuri can be. And in regards to Allen, I just haven't seen the attacking side of him, even at Swansea, but it may come down more to how Brendan is having/had him play. Obviously Lucas = Dyer 2.0, Gerrard = Sigurdsson 5.0 and Allen = Allen. Just not enough goals from midfield. (People will say what about Xabi/Masch but we had a 20 goals gerrard and 25 goal torres in front of them, we don't have anything near that). I definitely respect your opinion and don't want to get into an argument, I just see it a bit different.
No, not at all mate. This is a good healthy debate. Difference in opinion. What would we do without it on forums? :D

I too have seen the 'good' Sahin, the one at Dortmund and still believe he could come good. But he was devastating in the Bundesliga, been average-ish here. Nevertheless, we should try and tie him down on a permanent. Not many midfielders like him.
 

Mascot88

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Lucas is so integral to us that for me a back up DM is at least equal order of business as a good attacker in Jan.

It isn't just what he does for Allen and Gerrard, it's that he allows the full backs to play as attacking wing backs that could have the biggest impact.
 

Quagmire81

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let's see them play a few games, and then we know better. The one they have played went horrible.
My fear is they will be too passive going forward and simply won't provide enough offensive, and that we still will have a hard time scoring, cause it's not gonna come from them, the goals, that's for sure.
But will they open up for other to score more is the question. Since they ain't known for their defense splitting passes either, the assists might not come from them either. So what will they lock up for others to exploit. I just don't see it, but fact is we will see it happen, them two in our center-midfield that is.
 

lfc.8

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Lucas is so integral to us that for me a back up DM is at least equal order of business as a good attacker in Jan.

It isn't just what he does for Allen and Gerrard, it's that he allows the full backs to play as attacking wing backs that could have the biggest impact.
So you want a backup DM when we're short of at the very least 2 first 11 players. Two forwards and then a left back and possibly an attacking midfielder. DM can wait for the mean time. We've got Lucas, Allen, Sahin and Henderson. Not all true DM players, but it's up front where we're really lacking.
 

brush85

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^ There is something to it though. When our entire team has just collapsed because we dont have a good DM or reliable DM...It does hold a little weight.
Especially when players in that area of the pitch, as back ups, arent exactly expensive. Especially out on the continent.
Having a solid structure can really help you attack with more fluidity. Like in Istanbul, when Hamann comes on to give us some steel and it allowed certain players to get up the field and take the game to them a little bit. Isolated game but there is something to it.

Good read in the O.P. I cant remember the last time a player of ours coming back from injury has been so desperately needed. Its amazing.
 

lfc.8

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If we've got the money fine, but i would focus firstly on the shortcomings inherent within the starting 11. Then take it from there.
 

Quagmire81

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^ There is something to it though. When our entire team has just collapsed because we dont have a good DM or reliable DM...It does hold a little weight.
Especially when players in that area of the pitch, as back ups, arent exactly expensive. Especially out on the continent.
Nah the team collapsed when we lost a true playmaker, and replaced him with one that was crooked and then had to seetle with the back up solution, that's fact. we then went on a terrible run using two DM in the team, then the true DM left and we been trying to replace them both ever since.those two are Alonso and mascerano btw.
 

brush85

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I'm not talking about that collapse. I'm talking about the one last year under Kenny....at one stage we were picking up points at a decent rate ( 22 points from 13 games I think ). Not great but not terrible and then we lost lucas and our ability to pick up points was shot.


The point sper game with lucas over the past couple years, compared to the points per game without him, tell a striking story.