Most Liverpool fans haven’t fully gotten over the final 12 months of Xabi’s Anfield career, going from seemingly being forced out to accommodate that midfield ‘heavy’ weight Gareth Barry, to turning in what was arguably his finest season showcasing just what a ‘huge’ mistake it was to try and replace him with Barry, to eventually leaving for Real Madrid. And let’s face it you would have to go a long way to find a Red who doesn’t want him back such was his influence, talent and bond with the club and its fans.
There are a few who have attempted to fill that Xabi sized hole in the team, from the injured/loaned out Alberto Aquilani who never really got going for or other, to Christian Poulsen who lags behind the Anfield Cat in terms of overall contribution on the field, to Charlie Adam and those £10m set plays that never really got past the first man. They’re all gone now, thankfully.
Step up Joe Allen, now when Brendan Rodgers said that in time people would regard the £15m fee paid to Swansea as a bargain I don’t think any of us expected that to be apparent after only 3 games, 3 games that we have failed to win. In a pretty much unimpressive start to the campaign Joe Allen has been the only player who could really walk off the pitch after all 3 games and be happy with his contribution. He knows Rodgers’ style, he knows how he fits in to that style and he plays his role to near perfection.
Could Joe Allen be the replacement Liverpool have needed since Xabi Alonso left for Madrid in summer 2009? Whilst it might be a bit too early to say yes – despite a positive start, it can’t hurt to take a look at what the stats say. So let’s take a look at Xabi’s stats from his final Season, and compare those to Joe Allens’ from his first season in the top flight.
Firstly, lets take a look at both players defensive contribution.
On the ground both players are very good on the ball, but Allen does put himself about more than Xabi did, finding himself involved in 102 more ground duels whilst dropping only a 2% success difference despite the higher number of duels. In the air is where the big difference is between the two, Allens 5ft 6” frame means he’s never really going to be a huge threat in the air, nor much of a challenge in the air for most but what he lacks in the air he makes up for on the ground, finding himself involved in more duels as we’ve seen but also by attempting more tackles than Xabi with a higher success rate too, averaging a tackle every 26 mins, compared to Xabi’s average of a tackle every 29 mins, and it would also seem that his ability to read the game and react accordingly to sniff out the danger is superior to Xabi making over 30 more interceptions. It is close and both have their strengths and weaknesses but there’s still more to consider.
Next Page: Passing and Goal Attempt Stats compared for Xabi Alonso and Joe Allen
It won’t be a surprise to most to see that both players are heavily involved in the passing game. Xabi has long been regarded as a pass master but on this evidence the master could be overtaken by the apprentice before too long. Xabi attempted over 300 more passes from fewer appearances and whilst he did play over 140 more successful passes than Allen, Joe completed an impressive 90.05% of his passes compared to Alonso and his 82.89% pass completion, with Allen also being more successful with the ball in open play. As far as dribbling goes Allen comes out over 3 times better than Alonso, showing much more of a willingness to run with the ball. Both players pretty much equal when it comes to getting crosses in with a shared 31% completion despite Xabi attempting more than double the amount of crosses that Joe did. Both players chipped in with their share of creating chances but Xabi’s creativity and vision is well documented so no surprise to see him creating chances much more regularly than Allen. So far so good for young Allen in filling the former #14’s boots.
Goal Attempts Comparison
Neither player is known for being prolific in front of goal – although Xabi is deadly from the half way line. Allen chipped in with a goal more than Xabi did in his final season despite Xabi having almost twice as many shots. In terms of accuracy and chance conversion the Welshman trumps the Spaniard. Both players aren’t in the team to score goals, but it is important that they provide the ammo and chip in from time to time and on this evidence Allen will do just that.
It’s important to take these statistics in context. Xabi was playing for a Liverpool team that was dismantling teams at home and abroad for fun for large parts of the season whilst Allen was playing in a Swansea team that people didn’t really expect too much of, and more importantly it was his first season in the Premier League, by 2009 Xabi was in to his 5th season in English top flight.
Swansea won a lot of people over last year drawing comparisons with Barcelona at times for the way they played the game, a style that Rodgers is attempting to bring to Liverpool, and Allen was a key element in what made Swansea good last season, whilst he might not take the centre stage headlines his work rate and ability on and off the ball allowed his team mates to do their jobs better and in a system where everyone works for the team this is essential – his attitude is terrific.
By 2009 Xabi was regarded as one of the world’s best players, eventually sealing a £30m move to Real Madrid. Allen by comparison is just starting out and on the evidence so far it really does look like Liverpool might finally found someone to replace Alonso – it’s only taken 3 years!
Has to be said though, he’s got a long way to go to reach the status that Xabi has with Liverpool fans and the club but as first impressions go – he’s nailed it.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.