Nasiruddin Patel explains why Adam Lallana is the most important player in Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing machine.
After a terrific season at Southampton, Adam Lallana was subject to interest from many Premier League teams, including Liverpool. Southampton were reluctant to sell their captain, who scored nine goals and registered five assists, however, a big money offer was difficult to resist.
Days before England flew off to Brazil for the World Cup, it was announced that Liverpool had agreed a £25 million fee with Southampton, to clinch the services of the former Bournemouth player. Lallana himself had expressed his desire to leave the Saints and move to a club playing in the Champions League and, after Liverpool’s magnificent season under Brendan Rodgers, Lallana would find it incredibly difficult to turn down a move to Anfield.
So, after a disappointing showing and an early exit for England at the World Cup, Adam Lallana announced he had signed for Liverpool. The England attacking midfielder was quoted as saying, “I’m so excited for the next chapter of my career, coming to a special club like Liverpool.”
At that time, Liverpool failed to get hold of the signatures of players such as Mkhitaryan and Salah. Consequently, Rodgers decided to buy British, as, in the past, it turned out to be a success for the Northern Irishman. The combination of Lallana’s technical skills, pace and energy made him one of the best attacking midfielders in the league. The aforementioned attacking abilities are why Lallana became a key man under Pochettino. The now Spurs manager once labelled Lallana as someone who ‘has the skills of Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas.’
£25 million is a massive amount for a player who had then only received three international caps for England, but, at the end of the day, that’s football. Managers take huge gambles and most times, it pays off. In his first season at Liverpool, Lallana arguably proved the to be the risk behind a manager’s gamble. It was a poor start for the Englishman and he found it very tough to earn a regular starting place under Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool faced massive criticism from the media for signing an ‘overhyped’ player. From Lallana’s perspective, even he admitted that his performances for Liverpool were ‘below par.’
Due to a poor start to the 2015/16 season, Liverpool’s hierarchy decided to sack Brendan Rodgers, and name a manager who would instantly bring exciting and entertaining football back to Anfield. As already known, that man was Jürgen Klopp. The German was a world renown manager who relied on nothing other than belief and pressing.
For Lallana, this was a major boost. Why? Klopp’s game is based on pressing and heavy metal football – meaning the former Dortmund manager commands his players to continuously attack the opposition’s defence and when off the ball, Klopp wants his players to rapidly close down the opposition, leading to errors and Klopp’s side retaining possession.
When Klopp arrived at Liverpool, there was only one player who clearly matched the ambitions of Klopp – that player was Lallana. Nevertheless, at that time, all the players were under scrutiny as many had under-performed. For Lallana most importantly, this was a clean slate and a fresh start.
Since minute one in Klopp’s first ever game as Liverpool manager, I have not seen Lallana give less than 100%. Under the German, Lallana has transformed himself into one of the most integral players at Anfield – this has only occurred because he has had the passion and desire to improve and work hard in training, unlike so many other footballers.
Since the start of Klopp’s reign at Anfield, Lallana has a tally of 20 goals and assists for Liverpool. Attacking wise, Lallana is exceptionally crucial, particularly to the system of Klopp. Furthermore, against Manchester United a couple of weeks ago, it was highly evident that without Lallana, the attacking force of Liverpool struggles to break down the defence of the opposition. As soon as he was introduced in the game, the whole structure of the match changed. There was a sudden presence of energy, creation of chances and the attack was full of flair and freedom.
Sometimes, Lallana may not be the one scoring and assisting goals. It’s often his off the ball movement that confuses the opposition. As the analysts say, to see the bigger picture of the match, you have to watch the player, not the game – that’s exactly the case with Lallana. For example, in the 4-2 win over Crystal Palace, Lallana was the main man behind Firmino’s goal. His movement forced a Crystal Palace defender to run to him, which instantly opened massive amounts of space for Henderson to assist Firmino for Liverpool’s fourth goal.
One or two months ago, Lallana himself was questioned about his sudden rise under Klopp and he praised the tactics of Klopp, which allowed him to play his natural game.
According to The Metro, Lallana said, “When I was out wide, there would be periods in the game where I wouldn’t be as involved in the game as I would like, In the central area I’m getting a lot more touches on the ball and I’m being able to use one of my qualities.”
There are only two men that can be praised for Lallana’s impressive turnaround: Klopp and the man himself. Both combined to prove the doubters wrong. Klopp’s training ground work with Lallana tremendously facilitated the former Southampton player to become Liverpool’s hidden weapon. Moreover, Lallana demonstrated that hard work always pays off.
The point I’m trying to make is without Lallana, Klopp’s system doesn’t function. He may not be an attacking midfielder who’ll get more than ten assists a season but what Liverpool fans must come to terms with is that Lallana offers something unique. His attacking prowess and eye for goal is beginning to show up, or arguably, it was already there, but people just didn’t give him a chance.
For many more years, Lallana’s future looks bright and optimistic as ever. From now on in, no one should question Lallana’s importance to Klopp’s Liverpool. From the perspective of a Liverpool fan, without Lallana, there is no ‘gegenpressing’ and if there’s no ‘gegenpressing’, there is no football.