Martin King discusses who will replace Adam Lallana for Saturday’s Premier League game against Southampton.
Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana sustained an injury while on international duty with England earlier this week and although manager Jürgen Klopp confirmed he will undergo a scan to determine the extent of the injury, the results could rule Lallana out of his side’s upcoming league match against Southampton.
“95 per cent is good news” was the verdict from Klopp on his team’s latest injury situation, according to Liverpool’s official website. Whichever way you look at it, the remaining five percent is likely to be bad news that is largely represented by midfielder Lallana, meaning that Klopp will very likely face the task of choosing a replacement for the 28-year old for Saturday’s match at Saint Mary’s.
Two men, in Daniel Sturridge and Georginio Wijnaldum, stand out in that regard and both will be hoping to make a start, but who can be seen as the best replacement for their in-form teammate?
With no goals to his name and only eight appearances in the Premier League this season, many can argue that there is no man more determined for game time at Liverpool than Daniel Sturridge.
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Even more than game time, though, Sturridge is keen to impress. Of the eight league appearances the striker has made this season, four of them have come from the bench and at periods in the game when his side have already had the match won, so playing from the start would give Sturridge ample opportunity affect the game.
Should the Englishman receive it, though, Klopp would have to make a few tactical changes.
Liverpool’s main formation this season has been an attacking 4-3-3, one that attacking trio Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have flourished in. Slotting Sturridge into the equation would either mean that Coutinho drops into a deeper midfield role, as he did in last month’s match at Swansea City, or that Klopp’s formation changes into a 4-2-3-1, with Jordan Henderson and Emre Can the two holding midfielders behind Coutinho, Firmino and Mané, who would be supporting Sturridge up-front.
However, a place in the starting line-up under any system will merit the number 15 little change to his current situation, if he doesn’t impose his manager’s gegenpressing philosophy.
Leading the line for Liverpool doesn’t only consist of scoring goals under Klopp (never-mind how good a finisher Sturridge is) but everything that is done without the ball with regards to counter-pressing and tracking back to contribute defensively.
Do that and the former Chelsea striker can put himself back in the forefront of Klopp’s thinking for a regular starting place up-front, as his teammate Firmino has seamlessly done.
Different class Wijnaldum
Fairly enough, fans and pundits expected Georginio Wijnaldum to be situated somewhere across the frontline this season, banging in the goals and creating chances alongside Coutinho and Firmino.
But the former Newcastle United midfielder has occupied a different role under Klopp and has, to his credit, been different class.
When the Dutchman joined from Tyneside, the Liverpool boss noted his versatility – amongst other attributes – as a reason why he fitted the profile of a Reds player and Wijnaldum has duly proved his manager correct.
He started in all of his side’s first seven league games, occupying a deep-lying playmaker role. There, alongside Henderson and Lallana, he was tasked with a classic build-and-destroy job, one which he did impressively, using his strength and energy to support the team’s counter-pressing moves and his skill on the ball to burst forward and create chances for both himself and his fellow strikers.
This new role may have limited the likelihood of goals coming at a regular basis for Wijnaldum, but the Dutchman did come off the bench to score his first goal for Liverpool in their 6-1 victory over Watford, prior to the international break. The general consensus is that if Gini continues to humbly work hard, as his manager instructs, the goals will eventually come – even if, unlike at previous clubs Newcastle and PSV Eindhoven, he is not the player that always grabs the headlines.
Standing above him in the pecking order is fit again Emre Can but the potential absence of teammate Lallana grants him an opportunity to continue what has been a decent start to life in red and his inclusion – unlike Sturridge’s – wouldn’t require any alterations in tactics.
Who is the best option?
Such is the great amount of depth in this Liverpool squad that there really is no “best” option.
Sure, both Sturridge and Wijnaldum possess a different set of qualities and are at different stages in their Anfield careers, however, whichever decision Klopp takes on Saturday will make little difference to the way his team have and hopefully will be playing at Saint Mary’s, it just won’t disturb the rhythm.
Ultimately (and thankfully), it’s his headache to deal with but the German can rest assured that be it Sturridge’s goals or Wijnaldum’s eagerness that he chooses, both will make a positive contribution to his side’s attempts to continue a fine run of form with a win at the South Coast.