What changed for Adam Lallana and what does this mean for Liverpool?
At first glance, Adam Lallana can be a bit of an enigma. He supported Everton as a child. His paternal grandfather was Spanish. But most importantly, nobody’s quite sure just how good a player he is.
But since new manager Jurgen Klopp’s arrival, the former captain of Southampton has come out of his shell and answered all his critics. Six months ago, his £25 million fee made people scoff and grumble about the “English Player Tax”. Now the deal looks like a complete bargain.
Here’s what changed.
“Useless Flicks and Tricks”
Even the great Cristiano Ronaldo was ostracized in England as a teenager for being a “show pony”. So you can imagine the sort of treatment that an under-performing Lallana got at Liverpool after leaving the team he served for 13 years.
Much to the credit of Lallana and his manager, the same player criticized for his lack of end product has scored six and assisted in 6-of-12 league appearances thus far. Two of those goals came this past weekend at the Riverside against Middlesbrough.
The first was a thumping (and rare) header after a perfectly timed run into the box.
On the other hand, the second goal was typical Lallana. Sure, it was an easy opportunity in the end, but there’s not a player on the England squad that you’d rather have finishing on their weaker side. It’s extremely rare to find players like Santi Cazorla and Lallana who seemingly have no weak foot, let alone an English one. Put Raheem Sterling in that situation, and I would put money on him wasting the chance.
Time after time we hear players speak to the importance of their manager’s confidence. Coaches like Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger, and Claudio Ranieri have mastered the psychological art of keeping their team feeling relaxed and free on the pitch. Jurgen Klopp, who arrived at Liverpool in the middle of last season, might just be the best of them all.
In fact, just a few days ago Jurgen had this to say about his team:
“I think we have the best English players, all of them. Adam Lallana is improving even when he doesn’t score, but it’s nice he’s in that situation.”
“About a year ago I had sat him in the office and I was happy with him but he was like ‘I’m not scoring’.
“I said he wasn’t in the right positions. Tonight he was twice in the right position and it was wonderful.”
Even when he failed to score regularly, Lallana knew he would be high in Klopp’s pecking order thanks to his intelligent, incessant pressing. This was always going to benefit a player whose only real issue, finishing, is one that correlates more with confidence than any other skill.
Furthermore, as Jurgen mentioned at the end, Lallana has immensely improved his movement and goal-scoring anticipation. Six months ago, we’d never see the determination and timing he showed against Middlesbrough. The 28-year-old showed glimpses of it during his final season at Southampton, but he seems to have made that skill his own under Klopp’s reign.
Especially when you take their minutes played into account, Adam Lallana has left his English squad competition in the dust this season. But Premier League fans know that Alli, Walcott, and Sterling are just as menacing in front of goal on their day. The trait that makes Lallana unique is the third statistic: Tackles Won.
Some might argue that this is simply a consequence of Liverpool’s “gegenpressing” style, which entails swarming the opposing player with the ball from all directions and angles. However, that would be dismissing the fact that Pochettino’s Spurs and Guardiola’s City live and die by variants of the same high-line, high-pressing style. In fact, it was Mauricio Pochettino who first introduced Lallana to this philosophy at Southampton.
Therefore, it’s clear from the statistics that the Liverpool man is the most effective presser. I bring this up to not only demonstrate that Lallana is the hardest-working of the four, but also that he is the most intelligent in terms of pressing and movement. In other words, he is an enigma.
That’s not to say that all English players are tactically inept and run around like headless chickens on the international stage, but most of them do. It should be noted that Lallana is 28 whereas Alli and Sterling are 20 and 22 respectively. However, the Liverpool man’s exquisite technique, two-footedness, and intelligent efficiency are a refreshing departure from what we’re used to seeing with English wingers. And at this point in time, he’s not just a breath of fresh air. He’s just better.
The Premier League season still has a long ways to go, but 16 games in we can safely say that Adam Lallana is the most in-form English player at the moment. While that may be good news for England fans, that’s definitely not good news for the Evertonians awaiting the Merseyside Derby on Monday.
Both teams have bounced back with a win in their most recent games, but as we know all too well, form goes out the window in these fixtures. If there’s one thing I’m certain about, though, it’s that Adam Lallana will score.
Prediction: Everton 2-2 Liverpool
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