Joseph Kavaloski examines whether or not Adam Lallana could become Liverpool’s new skipper.
After Steven Gerrard’s final Liverpool game in 2015, Jordan Henderson became the new club captain prior to the 2015-16 season at just 25 years old. Returning from the brink of a move to Fulham just a year after arriving at Anfield in 2011, Henderson’s emergence as the face of the club came out of nowhere.
Unfortunately, Henderson’s progress has stalled due to injuries and general under-performance. His 2015/16 season was ravaged due to a foot problem that prevented him from getting a consistent run in the first team, and his performances over the first three matches of 2016/17 have not been inspiring. As a club with ambitious goals, Henderson may not be the player to lead Liverpool to glory.
Liverpool’s two “leaders” – Jordan Henderson as captain and James Milner as vice-captain – are two of the squad’s most experienced players. However, Liverpool’s optimal starting eleven likely includes neither of the two. This raises a serious question for the Reds: should the team’s two leaders be squad players? Most would say no as it is important for the captain to be on the pitch as much as possible to lead his fellow players to work together and play their hearts out.
Gerrard was the perfect captain through his burning passion to achieve excellence on the pitch for himself and also for his club. Gerrard’s heart and soul was put into the club and it played a massive role in him achieving greatness in a red shirt. Henderson and Milner are both hard working players, but neither have shown the fire to completely change the momentum of a match with a crunching tackle or a lung busting run. A captain does not necessarily need to be a club’s best player, but he needs to be able to inspire his teammates towards victory by never backing down and fighting through adversity.
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These qualities are very hard to come by in a player and that is why the positions of captain and vice-captain are so important. Liverpool currently has a squad that is incredibly bereft of experience – only James Milner has been a key player in a team that qualified for the Champions League more than once. This limits the number of realistic candidates for those two positions, but even Liverpool’s inexperienced players can hardly be defined as leaders.
As of now, only Emre Can and surprisingly, Adam Lallana, would qualify as players that encompass qualities normally associated with the great captains of Liverpool’s illustrious past. Can is very young at 22 years old and still has problems putting in consistent performances, but if he stays at Anfield for the foreseeable future as many expect him to, there is no doubt that he could be handed the armband. Lallana, on the other hand, is in the prime of his career at 28 years old and already has been a captain at his former club Southampton.
Under Brendan Rodgers, Lallana was the butt of many jokes, but under Klopp he has been revitalized as a key member of the first team. Last season, Lallana emerged as a key starter in attacking midfield thanks to his nifty footwork in possession and relentless closing down of opponents.
This season, Lallana has been playing more in a centralized role that appears to be a better fit for his skillset. The Englishman appears to be the perfect player for Klopp – one that will give every ounce of energy in defence and attack for all ninety minutes. Plus, when watching Liverpool’s first few matches and those in the pre-season, Lallana was the player driving on his side and urging for better performance when the Reds were down.
Against Burnley, Lallana was consistently urging his teammates forward despite the team clearly being out of rhythm and down two goals. The former Southampton skipper is not the most gifted player, but his work ethic and drive to never give up is admirable and has clearly been noticed by his manager.
Lallana’s best attribute is his relentless pressing that has allowed him to become the trigger in Klopp’s gegenpressing system. Whether the Reds are up 4-0 or down 4-0, Lallana is always closing down opponents and driving his team forward.
Despite Klopp’s high profile purchases of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum, it is telling that the German has made it a priority to keep Lallana on the pitch as a regular starter. Ever since Klopp arrived on Merseyside, Lallana has been a completely different player. His contributions in the final third have noticeably increased and his work rate off the ball is fantastic. Plus, his new-found voice on the pitch to drive his teammates forward is something that is lacking in the Liverpool squad.
Although he may not be the name many fans would expect to see named Liverpool’s next captain or vice-captain, after struggling during his early days at the club, Lallana could actually be a solid leader for the Reds. The England international has experienced adversity and gone through the difficult times before overcoming the negativity and showing his true colors as a player.
He may not be the monumental presence of Steven Gerrard, but his tireless work ethic, drive for victory and ability to motivate his teammates in desperate times are all qualities associated with a leader. Henderson and Milner are good players in the squad, but neither are known for their voice on the pitch. Lallana may not be a high profile name that brings the cachet of Liverpool’s past leaders, but Klopp’s clear admiration could also play a role in the Englishman earning the captain or vice-captain role.
Lallana may not have the impact of Steven Gerrard, but his intangible qualities should not be overlooked and could lead him towards earning a leadership position.