Adam Lallana: How a change in role makes him and Liverpool more difficult to work out
If you look at the transfer business undertaken by Jurgen Klopp in the summer, and seen how his side set up from his arrival in October – you could easily have thought Adam Lallana was a player that could struggle to get into the starting XI.
For much of last season he operated as part of the front three and while his work ethic and pressing was praised, there was criticism levelled at him for a lack of goals.
Sadio Mane arrived and it appeared he would have a fight on his hands to get into the side with Philippe Coutinho occupying another flank with a forward playing through the middle.
But it seems a role has been found for Lallana as Klopp has set up a with a 4-3-3 system as part of one of the midfield three. It was a role he played in the friendly win over Barcelona last weekend, as well as yesterday’s 4-3 win over Arsenal in their Premier League opener at the Emirates Stadium.
From an attacking point of view it’s interesting to see. Given Lallana has been getting seven or eight goals per season in all competitions, they are more acceptable numbers for a midfielder coming from a deeper role – while those operating in the front three will have double figures as the absolute minimum requirement.
What Lallana seems to have provided in both of these games is some real aggression in the middle of the park – probably not something you’d expected just to look at him. His pressing has been able to start counter-attacks with the pace of Mane and craft of Coutinho ahead of him to flourish.
He might get caught in possession in a high tempo game like against Arsenal – though plenty have – but he has this ability to find that extra half a yard to keep hold of the ball for his side, and his technique allows him to orchestrate some neat interchanges.
Then he can arrive late into the area on the end of opportunities. If there’s one thing to be said about Lallana in goalscoring positions, it’s that it’s probably best if he doesn’t think about the opportunity in front of him. He seems to do better when it requires instinct or his options are limited. His strike against Arsenal was a great example.
But he also seems pretty hard to pick up. Though a lot of the time he’s in a deeper role, he has licence to express himself – as was the case for Georginio Wijnaldum with Jordan Henderson seemingly the deeper of the trio.
Given that he could also go back into the front three if required, it probably makes him that more tricky to work out, and a little problematic for anyone facing Liverpool if his performances go up a level.