SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 13: Joe Allen of Swansea City battles with Jordan Henderson of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium on May 13, 2012 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Somewhat surprisingly given Liverpool's current lack of depth and the recent departures of Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez, there hasn't been much in the way of new Liverpool rumours over the past few days—at least when it comes to incoming. When it comes to possible outgoings, it's been impossible to avoid talk of Andy Carroll to Newcastle since Sunday night while Craig Bellamy to Cardiff or QPR continues to be a thing people are suggesting could happen. But as far as players who might be coming to Liverpool goes, the pickings have been unusually thin since the arrival of Fabio Borini last Friday.
Though of course, when it's the middle of the summer transfer window there will always be a few players on the verge of signing—at least until they go to Spurs instead or it turns out there was never any Liverpool interest in the first place. Top of that list this week is the diminutive Swansea midfielder Joe Allen. Much was made around the time of manager Brendan Rodgers' move to Liverpool of a handshake agreement that said he wouldn't raid his former club for players until next summer at the earliest, but with rumours flying that the player himself is pushing hard to join up with his former boss it appears that agreement might end up lasting all of a month.
The 22-year-old Allen's capture would take a similar fee to the £10M sent to Roma for Fabio Borini, and if he were to arrive it's most likely he would compete for time with Jordan Henderson as the swing player in a midfield trio. In a pinch, though, his versatility means he could fill in capably in either a more defensive or attacking role. At 5'6" he's not likely to outmuscle anyone, but his positional sense, close control, vision, and tactical awareness are amongst the best in the Premier League.
It's often said that to make a fluid, pass and move system work what one needs more than anything are smart players, and when it comes to footballing intelligence there are few in England in the same league as Allen. His 91% pass completion rate last season was sixth best in all of European football, while his 44 created chances would have seen him a respectable fourth on a Liverpool side that created many but couldn't finish them and suggests his passing accuracy wasn't achieved by only sending the ball backwards and sideways. Meanwhile in defence, his 76 interceptions—one every 38 minutes, only slightly behind Lucas' rate of one every 30 minutes—speak to his intelligent defensive positioning.
With the similarly young Henderson already on the books, though, and numerous options behind him—even if they are unlikely to be anywhere near as useful or versatile as Allen—it does have to be asked if adding another central midfielder should be the club's top priority if players like Jay Spearing and Charlie Adam are likely to be around for the coming season.
If central midfield is already well stocked with quantity—though the quality may be a little thin—the more attacking role in Rodgers' preferred midfield trio is more of a question mark now that the club can no longer rely on Steven Gerrard's fitness, especially over a season that sees Liverpool in four competitions and likely to play around sixty games. Gerrard's health has been on a steady decline since the second half of the 2008-09 season, and in the past two years in particular it has become clear that no matter his quality when fit, the club can no longer rely on him actually being fit. Add in his determination to continue his England career until at least the World Cup in Brazil, and an interest in players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsy who could at split time with him in the attacking midfield role makes a lot of sense.
One more name to add to that list is Lewis Holtby, Schalke's 21-year-old attacking midfielder. Released by Borussia Monchengladbach when he was 15 because they believed he was too small and slow to ever make it through to the first team, Holtby has since become a regular for Schalke after a roundabout route including stops at Alemannia Aachen, VfL Bochum, and Mainz 05. Last season, his first spent entirely at Schalke, he started 22 times in the Bundesliga and made a further five substitute appearances while scoring six goals. Across all competitions for Schalke he made 40 appearances and scored nine times. He has also made two appearances for the senior German national team over the past year.
The half-English player has made no secret that he would like to move to the Premier League one day, though he's as yet far from the finished product. That still hasn't stopped him being linked to Arsenal, Manchester United, and Everton along with Liverpool this summer, and it seems clear that if he doesn't make the switch soon that it will be only a matter of time until he does. Likely to cost between £7-10M depending on how strong the competition really is for his signature, Holtby would make an interesting prospect and could be the sort of player who would grow into a long-term solution at attacking midfield over the next few seasons.
Beyond Holtby and Allen, there have been continuing suggestions this week that the club remains interested in Daniel Sturridge, Theo Walcott, and Clint Dempsey, though there has been little by way of further developments to report since links connecting the three players to Liverpool started to become unavoidable last week. In any case, with Rodgers having suggested that a second signing is likely before Liverpool's first pre-season game of the summer against Toronto FC on Saturday, the solid money is on it coming from the relatively short list of names made up of Allen, Holtby, Sturridge, Walcott, and Dempsey.