It took some getting there, but Adam Lallana is finally a Liverpool player. It was never really a secret that he was one of the top targets on Brendan Rodgers’ hit list this summer; even with links to the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Alexis Sanchez, we seemed absolutely determined to land the former Southampton captain, making an initial move for him before last season had even ended.
£25 million is a high price tag, and when compared with other players in that bracket I can see why certain question marks are being raised. But while the cost of a player is mainly down to his ability, it also depends on how unique the player in question is. And Southampton knew that they held a wildcard. A type of player of who there are so few of in world football, that we would struggle to find what we were looking for elsewhere. There would be no shortage of players with better goals or assists ratings, but in Lallana we had identified a missing piece to our puzzle, and Southampton knew that full well.
In Adam Lallana, we have landed a player who can not only slot seamlessly into our system, but also do so in three or four different roles within that system. His pace, creativity, and end product will mean he should have no problem fitting into the quick, attacking football style we played last season. But he also has an unrivalled ability to keep hold of the ball, particularly in advanced positions, which is a trait we occasionally lacked last year when coming up against teams who like to sit back and defend. One particular example from late last season springs to mind.
Having a player like this on the field will allow us to always have a player available to pass to, who we know we can trust on the ball even if there are two or three defenders close to him. He seems to thrive on drawing defenders close to him, only to trick himself out of the tackle. And his flair and spark means he always seems to see an opportunity to create an attack, rather than just passing backwards in fear of giving the ball away. For all his improvements last season, Raheem Sterling is a player who needs a little bit more room to work with, preferring to use an explosive, burst of pace style dribbling. Having Lallana on the pitch and training with him can only improve the young England International’s development too.
Another of Lallana’s distinctive qualities is how two-footed he is. He is so unpredictable, as not only is he equally as strong on his left foot as his preferred right, but he also has the intelligence to utilise this effectively and bamboozle the defenders by mixing it up and cutting inside or pulling wide as the situation dictates. He can be as much of an out-and-out winger or inside forward as he, or Brendan Rodgers, chooses.
If he is used as a centre midfielder, he bears similarities to how we’ve been operating with Philippe Coutinho; a natural playmaker starting from a deep position, allowed to start attacks with long, defence-splitting passes, or dribble the ball forward themselves and look for an opening. The Brazilian excelled in this role in the latter half of the season, having struggled slightly in the number 10 role when defenders learned not to give him a second on the ball. Playing in centre midfield does mean more defensive responsibilities, but Coutinho surprised everyone with his work rate when asked to do this, and Lallana is similarly an ‘all about the team’ player.
I can’t deny the reservations I have if the £25 million spent on him means we have missed out on signing Xherdan Shaqiri or Alexis Sanchez. Those are two players who I feel could really take us to the next level, and if Adam Lallana turns out to be our big, marquee signing this summer, I won’t be able to help but feel that we’d missed a trick. But with Luis Suarez looking like he is on his way out, we’re sure to have one or two big signings lined up, and the money to bring them in with. Until then, we’re safe in the knowledge that our squad has improved with the acquisition of one unique, supremely talented Englishman.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)