This summer's second attempt to replicate the Charlie Adam saga's drawn-out inevitability—after the first ended with Gylfi Sigudsson heading to Tottenham—continues to rumble along, with Liverpool today either prepared to pay Swansea the full £15M that would trigger Joe Allen's release clause or still waiting for the Welsh side to move closer to their £10M valuation or with a compromise already agreed. With 110 tackles and 76 interceptions, a chance created every 65 minutes, and a 91% pass completion rate marking him out as the sixth best in Europe last season, there's little doubt Allen is a useful player. There is reason to ask, however, if he'd represent a smart signing for Liverpool.
Allen is a smart, tidy player, a composed passer of the ball with a great first touch and the ability to release the ball quickly and accurately when under immense pressure. He has a high workrate, is tactically aware and will cover for out of position teammates, and though at 5'6" he is hardly the largest player on the pitch, in defence he will position himself to effectively slow down opposition breaks and cut off passing lanes. He is, in short, the sort of player who provides the foundation for the pass and move football Brendan Rodgers is trying to install at Liverpool and would seem a natural fit to partner with Lucas as the swing-man in a midfield trio.
For most Liverpool fans, the brand of football Rodgers preaches is hugely appealing and speaks to the club's history, while for many the insistence by former manager Rafa Benitez that any successful side constructs a strong spine first and then builds out from that seems the smart approach to building a team. The acquisition of Allen would quite clearly speak to both a desire for pass and move football and a desire to build a core of players that would provide a foundation for the club for the rest of the decade. He might not be the flashiest name out there, but for those who believe you can't have flash until the fundamentals are firmly in place Allen would be an entirely encouraging signing.
On the other hand, while few would suggest Allen is a poor player, with Jordan Henderson, Jay Spearing, Steven Gerrard, Jonjo Shelvey, Alberto Aquilani, and Charlie Adam all capable of playing as the second midfielder his is a position that is likely Liverpool's deepest. The quality may not be up to the levels of Liverpool's best midfields of the Premier League era, but Rodgers would seem to have enough serviceable options to choose from that splashing a significant portion of his limited budget on Allen could be considered a poor use of funds.
Even when considering just the midfield, the more specialised holding and attacking roles seem far more in need of strengthening. In the more defensive position there is only Lucas, as last season Liverpool suffered massively in his absence as Jay Spearing showed himself to be a willing but positionally questionable player far more suited to playing alongside a responsible holding player than as the lone holding player himself. Then, in the more advanced role, the most likely current options appear to be an injury prone Gerrard and the untested Shelvey.
Looking further from the centre, following the departures of Dirk Kuyt and Maxi and the continuing uncertainty over Andy Carroll, the holes in attack appear even bigger—even with the arrival of Fabio Borini. And so in the end, even some who might rate Joe Allen quite highly might be forced to wonder if spending somewhere between £10-15M on the player is the wisest move for Liverpool this summer.