There are few players who divide opinion quite like Adam Lallana. If anything it is not even fair to say he divides opinion anymore, as it seems like lately that his popularity has plummeted and Lallana supporters are now few and far between. I should state from the outset that I am still a dedicated member of ‘Team Lallana’ but many neutrals have now turned on the former Southampton skipper lately. But even I must admit that times have very much changed since Lallana was last fully fit and firing back in the 2016-2017 season. Therefore, we must now reconsider what does the present and future hold for the talented midfielder?
Even his harshest critic would be hard pressed not to admit that Lallana was one of our most important players back in 2016-2017. He had fully adapted to the new deeper role that Jurgen Klopp had given to him and was thriving all season long. Just to emphasize his prowess at the time, he was also selected as England’s Player of the Year for 2016 picking up 38% of the fan vote in the process. After a couple of injury hit, and inconsistent years at Anfield, Lallana seemed finally destined to become a mainstay in the Liverpool team.
It wasn’t to be though as the St Alban’s native picked up a hamstring injury in pre-season against Atletico Madrid which forced him to miss the first 3 months of the 2017-2018 campaign. To call this a devastating blow would be an understatement. He did eventually return however and was slowly establishing himself back in the team having started in the Champions League second round tie with Porto when his old enemy struck again in March away at Crystal Palace and once again, the luckless Lallan was sidelined with what looked like a season ending injury.
Remarkably Lallana managed to be fit in time for the Champions League final where his appearance will forever be overshadowed by the fact he replaced the ailing Mo Salah in the first half. It was a time of year when Liverpool’s depth had been torn to shreds, and the recently returned Lallana was always realistically going to be up against it in that final where he couldn’t get close to his top form. It was a season to remember for the club but an absolute nightmare for the player.
Fast forward six months though and here we are again. Lallana missed much of the early goings with yetanother set back. Many Lallana detractors will rightly state that his pattern of consistent injuries is just too much to ignore. It is hard for Jurgen Klopp to be relying on him as a key player if he cannot even be sure he will be available to him.
A fair comparison would probably be another personal favourite of mine in Daniel Sturridge. At no point during his Liverpool career has Sturridge not been good enough to play, but instead Klopp couldn’t ever trust that he would be able to lead the line for a significant period of time. Perhaps then, the best role for Lallana moving forward is to follow in the footsteps of Sturridge and ease his way back in. Now I am not saying we should loan out Lallana but a pattern can be followed here.
The potential drawback of this though is Lallana tends to be the type of player who plays himself into form. His effectiveness is highly correlated with the amount of time he spends of the pitch. This could certainly be a problem as he cannot be guaranteed to start in the current set up. This is in stark contrast to Sturridge who I feel can not play in months and still find ways to bamboozle defenders with immediate effect.
Perhaps most importantly though Lallana is a very easy player to get behind. He gives absolutely everything to the team and seems to be a leader behind the scenes. When a goal is scored, you only have to watch Lallana’s celebrations to see how much it means to him. He plays the game with little to no ego and simply wants to win in whatever way possible. Decisions like this should not be based solely on the personality of a player but it certainly helps his cause in hard times. He is a player who deserves our support I am completely sure of that.
Realistically though it is time for Lallana to adapt to his current surroundings or risk being surplus to requirements. He is now 30 years of age which isn’t terribly old for a player of his type but the clock is ticking. He only has to look at his midfield partner James Milner to see what is possible when all hope looks lost later in a career.
There is no doubt in my mind that Adam Lallana still has plenty to offer to this club. His talents are quite unique especially compared to other options in midfield. Along with Xherdan Shaqiri, he remains the best link between the midfield and front three in the current squad. I will admit that if he cannot get a good run of form going this year then Jurgen Klopp will seriously have to consider his options next summer. Until then though, I truly believe we have a player who can contribute significantly to the cause. Even if you’re not a big Lallana fan, it is time to get behind him as he could be a massive asset for this club from here on. To sum up his value to the team and coaching staff, I will conclude with this quote from Klopp at the tail end of last season, make of it what you will…
“What the boys did this season was unbelievable. We missed Adam Lallana for the whole year and I can’t believe we have achieved this without him.”
Jurgen Klopp, May 2018