Adam Lallana: The Beneficiary of Klopp’s Vision, but the Victim of his Ruthlessness
Jurgen Klopp. The self-proclaimed “normal one” is far from an ordinary coach. He is a rare mix of inescapable charisma and warmth while still possessing a lesser-seen ruthlessness and cold intellect towards the game. It is that contrast that makes him one of the greatest managers in the world. There’s perhaps no better case to highlight the two sides of the German than Adam Lallana’s last 18 months on Merseyside.
Following a mixed debut season for the Reds, it wasn’t until Klopp’s arrival in October of 2015 that the Hertfordshire-born midfielder’s Anfield career finally had lift off. Liverpool’s number 20 quickly became more than just a workhorse capable of the odd step over. Lallana, alongside Firmino, became Klopp’s golden child. Together they looked like the only two players in the squad that the manager would’ve actively wanted to go out and sign had they not already been Liverpool employees. The way Lallana engaged the press, won the ball back and proceeded to make the right decision on the ball in such a pressurised environment was more than commendable. He looked like a new player.
16/17 was even better for the then 28-year old. There’s every chance that upon retirement he looks back at that campaign as the peak of his Liverpool career, scoring eight goals and notching up seven assists in the league. But since the summer of 2017, everything has changed. While injuries have never been far away for the midfielder, a hamstring tear suffered in the pre-season defeat to Atletico Madrid 13 months ago has stifled his career to an extent that few could have ever predicted.
His only league start of the last campaign came away to Burnley on New Year’s Day. His performance was all too familiar to his eleven cameos off the bench and his two other starts against Porto and Everton. While rarely looking abject, Lallana suddenly had a knack of being 6/10 every week. Those not as enthralled in this endless game as us will never quite understand how big the difference is between being 6/10 and 7/10. The two are worlds apart. Those not as invested in the game as us will never understand how harder it is to win a league when you have a starting player performing at 6/10 from August right through until May.
By the time Lallana finally got more than a half hour under his belt at Turf Moor, both his critics and advocates were happy to admit that he was only working his way back to match fitness. This was perhaps more wishful thinking than realistic judgement. By Burnley away, it had already been over six weeks since he had made his original return off the bench against Chelsea. Despite a busy and uninterrupted schedule through December, Klopp’s golden child was yet to look in any way close to replicating the brilliance we had seen from him in the past. His best performance of last season would’ve struggled to rival his tenth best from the previous campaign. Yet again he looked like a new player, except this time for worse, not for better.
Coutinho’s departure didn’t aid Lallana in getting further minutes either. By the time the next hamstring-shaped setback struck against Crystal Palace in late March, Burnley was still his sole league start of the season. He was off the pace against Everton in the cup before being withdrawn in
the second half, and was again no better than adequate in his third and final start to the season at home to Porto. None of this was for a lack of trying. It was an almost unexplainable drop off from his brilliance of the season before.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the current status quo at Anfield is Klopp’s attitudes towards certain players. It’s clear that Lallana could still be a vital cog to Liverpool’s current title challenge in Jurgen Klopp’s mind. In the opposite way to someone like Joe Allen, who could never seem to get a run of games regardless of how well he was performing, the golden child will always remain an option to the manager, regardless of form.
The quality of the squad has changed noticeably since the midfielder’s arrival at Melwood four years ago. Jordon Ibe is no longer the singular threat to his starting place in the first team. Instead we see the Reds more than capable to sail through their first four games without Chamberlain and Fabinho in the squad, along with the club captain being rested. While Jurgen Klopp may appear all hugs and smiles on the outside, the man is a serious operator. He is as desperate and as determined as anyone to bring silverware back to Merseyside. His pursuit of Europe’s top names over the last two summers proves that he’s aware that sentimentality alone isn’t enough to win a league title. The manager would love nothing more than to win a treble with Lallana as the focal point of his midfield three, harassing every defender in Europe for nine months straight. But while there may have been a question about Klopp’s sometimes-blind romanticism towards the game when he first arrived at Liverpool, any further doubts over his naivety have now most definitely been eliminated.
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Minor setback this week, which isn’t ideal as I’ve been in great shape until now, but it is positive news it’s only a brief layoff. Pleased I’ll be back and available for Liverpool, both domestically and in the Champions League, during September and then England again for the next break. I know I can make a significant contribution over the course of a long season and that’s where my focus will remain as there’s so much to play for. Doing my best and giving everything for my teammates, management and supporters of club and country is all that matters. Back at Melwood now making sure the time off the pitch is as short as possible, so will be supporting Gareth and the boys from up here. Good luck lads and keep making the country proud.
It’s difficult to be optimistic about Lallana’s Liverpool future, and it looks increasingly likely that he won’t be around this time next year. The club’s failed attempts to lure Nabil Fekir to Merseyside showed that Klopp wants more quality in that area of the pitch. Unsurprisingly so, given the permanent and temporary absences of Coutinho and Chamberlain. However, it wasn’t his most favoured son which the manager turned to this time. He instead has again shown that lesser-seen ruthlessness that is needed to win a league title, looking abroad to see who could perform the tasks he so often asked of Lallana.
But the manager hasn’t forgotten about his golden child. While he could be a distant figure in the background for much of this season, there will come a time when he is called upon and possibly even be a regular starter again. He could soon have a Lucas Leiva type of role, annually finding a way into the team against all the odds. Injuries and match fitness will be the biggest concerns for both player and manager, but there are few other members of the squad that Klopp can invest as much trust in as he does in the ex-Southampton man. His time back in the spotlight will come, even if his best days are now more than likely past him.
Patience is key