It’s evident for club and country; Jurgen Klopp is getting the best out of Adam Lallana
Absent from training ahead of the Premier League clash at home to Sunderland on Saturday, Lallana’s injury picked up on international duty in a friendly against Spain looks to inflict more frustration on Liverpool fans. He endured a mixed spell in his first two seasons at the club, but with a touch of Jurgen Klopp’s magic he’s now considered a key player, which is testament to how far he’s developed under the German’s coaching.
“He plays on the left, he plays on the right, Adam Lallana, makes Messi look sh*te.”
That was the chant on loop belted out by thousands of Southampton supporters at St. Mary’s – one I didn’t mind getting involved with when I was watching the Saints frequently while I was studying at the nearby university. Seeing Lallana play in League One, helping his team climb the ranks and becoming their most important asset, I knew this was a player I’d love to see wearing red at Anfield.
Thanks to Matt English for this guest post: @mj_english
A product of Saints Academy, which has produced a host of household names (Bale, Walcott, Shearer, to name a few), Lallana signed from Bournemouth Centre of Excellence in 2000, made his first team debut in 2006 and became captain in 2012 when Southampton returned to the Premier League.
It was in the 2008-09 season when Lallana developed into a regular for Southampton, tearing up League One and becoming the first Saints midfielder to score 20 goals in a season, surpassing a record held previously by a certain Matthew Le Tissier. These were the first signs of Lallana’s incredible flair on the ball and his seemingly endless supply of energy off it.
Southampton’s back-to-back promotions and return to the top flight were particularly helped by the ability of Lallana. His technique is remarkable – he’s scored some sublime goals. A quick Google search to double check that he is in fact English was needed when he cut through Hull City’s defence to score a Messi-esque goal in 2013.
Lallana thrived in his first two seasons in the Premier League scoring 12 goals and racking up 10 assists, and was named in the 2013-14 PFA Team of the Year. He was also one of six players to be nominated for the 2013-14 PFA Player of the Year Award, but that season it belonged to an untouchable Luis Suarez.
And then, as if my Football Manager signings were becoming a reality, Lallana signed for Liverpool after returning from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, along with Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren from Southampton. Could he come in and be the influential figure for the Reds that he was for the Saints? Not quite.
A knee injury sustained in pre-season training forced him to miss the start of the 2014-15 season and he didn’t exactly hit the ground running. After producing some forgettable performances, the England international struggled to win over the Kop in his first season, scoring only five goals and producing three assists.
Critics were quick to label his £25million move to Anfield as a flop when Lallana’s mixed form continued into his second season with Liverpool, but too much time spent on the bench with Brendan Rodgers as manager proved difficult for him to find any consistency.
Two goals in two consecutive Europa League games showed glimpses of the player that flourished at Southampton, but Liverpool’s form was declining under Rodgers and it wasn’t until Klopp’s arrival on Merseyside that a noticeable change in Lallana’s form could be seen.
Now finding himself as a regular in Klopp’s starting line-up, Lallana began to play with the sort of creativity and confidence that got him noticed at Southampton, and he played an important part in helping Liverpool to a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge and a 4-1 away win against Man City.
A new boss and a new year brought a new wave of confidence to the former Saints midfielder when he came on as a second-half substitute to score an injury-time goal in the emphatic 5-4 away win at Norwich City in January this year.
Klopp had seemingly worked out how to use Lallana effectively in his high pressing game, with the midfielder’s impressive work rate and movement promptly turning critics into worshippers. Injury forced him to miss most of February’s fixtures, but an impressive run of form saw him finish the 2015-16 season with seven goals and assists, and more importantly as a candidate for the most improved player under Klopp.
Previously criticised for not scoring enough goals, Lallana has scored three in the league this season – vs. Arsenal, Leicester and Hull – and another three whilst on England duty. He is now a regular starter for England and scored the winning goal against Slovakia in a World Cup Qualifier, and added to his international tally in a 3-0 win against Scotland and a 2-2 draw against Spain.
But much to the frustration of Liverpool fans and Klopp, a groin injury picked up in that friendly against Spain now keeps the revitalized midfielder out of a potential three games, and the very fact this is such a worry is evidence of how much Lallana has improved under his new manager.
In the two other games Lallana has missed this season due to injury, Liverpool have failed to score a goal. A bore draw against Man United in October and another goalless draw in the game at St. Mary’s proved his creativity and energy will be missed, but in Lallana’s absence Gini Wijnaldum has another chance to form a partnership with Emre Can – both have been in fine form this season – in midfield in the “two or three games” Lallana could be out for.