7th November 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
After Stoke City's hugely disappointing start to the 2016/2017 campaign, where they only took home one point from a possible 15, their star summer signing, Joe Allen, would've been wondering whether he'd made the right decision in joining the Potters.
But fast forward to now, and things have completely turned around for both, the player, and the club, as Stoke have amassed an outstanding 13 points from the last 18 available. And Mark Hughes' decision to push Joe Allen into the number 10 role has unquestionably been one of the crucial catalysts behind their impressive upturn in form, with the £13 million signing, from Liverpool, adding some real energy, intensity, fight and technical quality to his team's work in the final third - on both sides of the ball.
Since moving into his more advanced role five games ago, the 26-year-old's performances have been nothing short of remarkable. The fact he's scored four goals and supplied a further two has aptly illustrated his suitability for the position, which is made all the more impressive due to the role being somewhat unfamiliar to him.
"I've never had a run of games in the No.10 before, so I am still getting used to it but I am really enjoying it," Allen insisted.
"It shows you how quick things can turn around in the Premier League; our aim is to keep things going."
His manager, Hughes, deserves plenty of credit for believing in him and recognising that he'd be a fantastic fit to be play in the 10 slot too. "I just felt that having watched him train on a daily basis you could see a lot of attributes that we all know but the main one for me was his anticipation about where the ball was going to land or bounce or break free," Hughes explained.
"From my point of view, I felt that we needed more energy in forward areas and clearly he was going to give us that. We've been delighted with what he's produced.
"He's not only a technically gifted and very talented player, he's added goals. That's a bonus because we didn't anticipate that, and his demeanour and his personality have added to the group as well."
Aside from the afore, Allen's slickness of thought with the ball at his feet and in terms of his movement has seen him bring another dimension to Stoke's attacking surges. Being able to utilise his exceptional vision and distribution further upfield, in combination with his terrific spatial recognition, with him using the latter to persistently find openings, has been a tremendous positive for his side.
Moreover, the way he's coordinating his movements nicely with centre forward, Wilfried Bony, with one always high and one dropping deeper, is a testament to the effectiveness of their ever growing partnership. Indeed, the duo's capacity to coalesce so early into their time working together certainly bodes well for the future.
The pairing have also provided Stoke with a solid first line of defence when looking to disrupt their opponents' attempts to pass out from the back. The tireless Allen's been particularly impressive in this regard, using his supreme fitness, anticipation and concentration the former Liverpool man's relentlessly heaped pressure on his adversaries, always looking to make life uncomfortable for his adversaries at every available opportunity. His ability to position himself in ideal locations where he uses his cover shadow to block passing lanes has been another factor why he's so effective and efficient defensively.
"The fact that he anticipates things and if you win balls in high positions up the pitch, then very quickly opposition teams have difficulty dealing with that. They haven't got enough time to regroup and get their shape back quickly if you can win balls in good areas," explained a clearly impressed Hughes.
In terms of statistics, they too back up aptly just how well the diminutive midfielder is going at present, with him averaging 1.5 key passes per game, 1.4 shots pg, one successful dribble pg, 3.7 tackles pg and 1.8 interceptions pg. These figures undoubtedly make for great reading and emphatically illustrate his incredible all-round contribution.
With the help of Allen, Stoke are now well and truly out of the relegation zone and hoping to keep up their outstanding recent form. Although well aware of his star pupil's qualities, it's intriguing to hear that Hughes himself didn't even envisage Allen having such an immediate influence, saying. "I don't think any of us thought he would be as effective as he has been, even Joe himself would say that, but long may it continue because he's made a big impact."
Having endured such a horror start to life at Stoke following his magnificent showing at Euro 2016, Allen will definitely be feeling a palpable sense of vindication that he did, in fact, make the right decision in signing for Stoke.
Although it took a while for Hughes' men to get going, with Allen running the show from his new number 10 post, all of a sudden the Potters season now looks filled with positivity.
More football blogs at Licence to Roam.
Joe Allen In the Role of Stoke City Number 10 Helps them Turn 2016/17 Around
7th November 2016. By Edward Stratmann.