Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol is no stranger to big claims, but his latest opinion speaks to an idea of topical relevance given Jürgen Klopp’s recent comments regarding Adam Lallana.
“I think it’s pretty clear the odd man out in that lot is Lallana,” Nicol rather disparagingly told ESPN FC.
“At his best he can give you a little sparkle. Unfortunately, in his time at Liverpool, he’s not really been at his best very often.
“So right now, for me, he is the one completely on the out.”
Lallana is in the final year of his contract at Anfield, so speculation about his future is natural even if it is something of an easy take. Indubitably, his options are threefold: negotiate a new deal, run down his current contract, or hold early talks elsewhere come January.
However, in pre-season, Klopp has experimented with the notion of playing the 31-year-old in a “Jorginho-role” as a deep-lying playmaker, potentially reprising the so-called “quarterback” role Steven Gerrard was asked to perform under Brendan Rodgers.
Of course, we’re not making the comparison between Gerrard and Lallana as players, merely noting the reflections of a midfield repositioning.
At the base of a potential diamond, Lallana would also be responsible for covering the channels and making himself available for passes into space to then release teammates who have taken up suitable, advanced positions.
Nicol has previously claimed he would “like somebody in the middle of the park who can do a little bit more than getting the ball back.”
Lallana’s gunna start a competitive game as a number six for Liverpool this season and people are going to absolutely lose their shit.
— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) July 14, 2019
Why couldn’t Lallana perform that kind of role this year? Spraying passes from a vantage point further back in proceedings, and, with his technical ability, the £25 million midfielder is more than capable of surveying the lay of the land and picking out killer passes.
At 31-years-old and somewhat tempered by injury, Lallana may no longer be Klopp’s gegenpressing-starting, “teacher’s pet,” but as a string-pulling lieutenant he could still be depended on to dictate the flow as a regista, if he’s fit and Klopp so wishes.
Not for every game, of course; with Fabinho excelling as a pivoting, midfield destroyer, it seems likely Klopp will stick with an effective trio in the engine room.
But, for certain games where we need to break down stubborn defences, his vision, tactical intelligence, composure, and assured decision-making, could see Lallana as the “odd man out” for all the right reasons as the Reds’ only creative, deep-lying playmaker.