While much of the focus will have been on Liverpool’s inability to defend in their 4-3 win over Swansea City yesterday, Liverpool’s midfield looked exposed at times.
For much of the first half Jonjo Shelvey was having the time of his life, as Steven Gerrard was left heavily exposed. The former Liverpool man looked very threatening in the final third and saw plenty of the ball, as well as scoring a very well taken goal before he was withdrawn at half-time.
Possession was being squandered far too frequently in the middle of the park, with not enough urgency to win the ball back like there was in the final third. It took someone who was prepared to stick their foot in to a challenge, put their foot on the ball and calm the game down.
Despite Kolo Toure’s best intentions with his gestures on the pitch calling for calm, it was Joe Allen that perhaps tipped the balance of power the home side’s way. After Swansea had equalised for the second time in the game courtesy of Wilfried Bony’s well taken penalty.
But Allen seemed to offer Liverpool a lot more bite, control. Liverpool were allowed to put their foot on the ball and out of his total of 19 passes, Allen had only misplaced the one during his half hour on the pitch.
Allen has often had the allegation levelled at him that he is a one-trick pony, that he can only pass the ball sideways. In other words he gets criticised for doing the job the manager wants him to do in controlling the game and the tempo. The statistic above shows that he was willing to get stuck into the challenges, winning a duel in every four-and-a-half minutes shows terrific work-rate and effort.
If we look at him in total compared to the rest of Liverpool's midfielders, it was clearly an area where theyl were lacking - and showed that Brendan Rodgers got this particular substitution spot on.
Yesterday, Liverpool dug out a result, all be it not in the usual way you would associate a side digging out a result. Usually it's a 1-0, this game was a 4-3.
It required a bit of grit in the middle of the park. That was what was lacking from this Liverpool performance until Allen entered the fray, he provided that quality that was lacking. He gave Steven Gerrard a greater deal of protection and the pressure was removed from the Liverpool captain.
He looked very much a player of Liverpool class when he came on, and has done in other games this season - he was one of the understated good performers in Liverpool's thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in December. Look who topped the duels chart then among the Liverpool midfielders:
image: © Vincent Teeuwen