Liverpool transfer focus - Allen in the stands for Anfield victory
Highly-rated Swansea City midfielder Joe Allen watched on from the stands at Anfield as Liverpool eased past Belarusian side FC Gomel in the second leg of their Europa League qualifier. A home debut goal for Italian striker Fabio Borini all but confirmed the Reds’ progression to the play-off stage, while captain Steven Gerrard and attacking full-back Glen Johnson sealed the win with goals of their own.
Brendan Rodgers started with a surprisingly strong team and all those who played from the beginning will be expected to line up against West Bromwich Albion in the opening game of the Merseysiders’ Premier League campaign - with one exception.
Allen, who is reportedly on the verge of joining Liverpool for a £15m fee, could take the place of midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who played alongside Lucas Leiva and Gerrard in the middle of the park. Shelvey, formerly of Charlton, has impressed in pre-season, but if the deal to take Allen to Anfield does go through, then it is likely that the young Englishman will only be vying for a place on the bench.
Despite the recent departure of Alberto Aquilani, Rodgers will still have a major midfield selection dilemma ahead of the new season as things stand. If Lucas, Allen and Gerrard are the preferred three in the middle, then the new Liverpool boss will have to carefully consider whether to dispose of any of his other options, including Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Shelvey, Jay Spearing or even Joe Cole, if the former Chelsea star is considered to be a creative central player. Even with the additional games in the Europa League and the rotation it would allow, it would be difficult to keep seven or eight midfielders happy throughout the season
Indeed, Rodgers does not appear to be a manager who likes to tinker with his side often. Last term, while he was managing Swansea, he picked eight players to start more than 30 top-flight games and only 14 players started a game on more than 10 occasions. If Rodgers’ natural instinct is not to chop and change so frequently, then he may well have to either sell another one of his midfielders or send someone out on loan in order to avoid conflict during the season.
Meanwhile, recent reports suggest that Liverpool would be willing to sell defender Daniel Agger to Manchester City, but only for a fee of £27m. The Danish star is a favourite at Anfield, with the fans, the manager, his colleagues and the player himself happy with life on Merseyside. But to sacrifice Agger for a significant amount of money would allow Rodgers to bring in two or three players and that may tempt owners Fenway Sports Group to accept an irresistible offer. Any such move would however test the relationship between the owners and the supporters.