The upcoming 2015/2016 Premier League campaign marks Adam Lallana’s time to prove he is worth the £25million Liverpool paid for him last summer.
The former Southampton man will be the first to admit the best is yet to come from him in a Liverpool shirt. He has been unfairly criticised for failing to make a large impact despite showing glimpses of the undoubted technical ability he possesses.
He was unfortunate last season not to have the chance to play consistently in an attacking midfield role behind a main striker such as Daniel Sturridge. The absence of Sturridge resulted in Brendan Rodgers varying between using Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli as lone strikers at times as well as the use of Raheem Sterling as a striker. In doing this, Lallana often posed as creator for two very out of form and unreliable strikers and an attacking midfielder turned striker.
Lallana’s regular injuries and the limited use of Rickie Lambert meant the two rarely featured together, thereby stopping them from replicating the understanding they displayed while at Southampton. Moreover, Mario Balotelli’s lack of creativity around the opposition penalty area presented Lallana’s efforts as irrelevant when the pair featured together. The Italian’s failure to bring others into play on a regular basis defeated the point of using attacking midfielders. Lallana’s assist for Balotelli’s winning goal against Spurs showcased how important it was for the Liverpool playmaker to have a striker in the box to create for.
When played alongside Philippe Coutinho, Lallana was regularly forced to pick up less favoured wider areas in order to avoid stepping into the same positions as his team mate. His quality with both feet very much contributed to Rodgers happily seeing him vacate wider attacking areas to allow Coutinho to attack centrally however this deprived him from troubling the heart of opposition teams. The positions he had to settle for required greater defensive responsibilities, stopping him from looking for the through balls that were such an important factor to his partnership with Rickie Lambert at Southampton. The absence of a striker was the obvious problem with Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling being forced to travel forward with the ball from deeper areas than they would have hoped, without a target to look for. Lallana recorded 3 assists, only two behind Coutinho’s 5, however he only created 33 chances to Coutinho’s 59. The lack of assists simply comes as a result of having no finishers in the side.
An area of improvement for the midfielder is that he must move the ball forward quicker and with more attacking conviction; it looked as though, at times, he carried the ball forward without really knowing what he planned on doing with it, with his saving grace being he was superb at using his skill to keep possession of the ball. Having said this, a long run in the side will undoubtedly benefit him in this regard as he becomes more accustomed to the players around him. In relation, the likely presence of Christian Benteke, in place of the injured Sturridge, will add another dimension to the Liverpool side and open the door for Lallana to play his through balls to provide for the £32.5 million man as well as allowing him to utilise his close control and touch to give and receive the ball from the striker in and around the opposition penalty box to get himself in more goal scoring positions.
The chance to play behind and out and out striker will surely see Lallana become an important player in Brendan Rodgers’ plans as he has already proven he is capable of both creating and scoring a goal. His talent with both feet and his attacking intelligence combined with his work rate makes him a player Rodgers loves to work with, though he must fight for his place more than ever following the arrival of Roberto Firmino and the rise of Jordan Ibe. New arrivals at Anfield will take away some of the pressure from Lallana while the hunger and effort he brings to the side gives him a great chance of becoming a fan favourite. Every Liverpool fan knows what he is capable of, it is only a matter of time before we start to see it.