Jack Hallows takes a look at Adam Lallana’s rise to prominence in an England shirt and why this is good news for Liverpool.
England’s last World Cup campaign back in 2010 was an absolute failure. Knocked out in the second round by Germany in their biggest tournament defeat to Die Mannschaft after Frank Lampard saw a goal disallowed despite crossing the line. Classic.
Let’s not forget, though, that 2014 was even worse. England went into the tournament confident as ever, only to be knocked out in the group stages after losses to Uruguay and Italy followed by a bore draw with Costa Rica. Since then there have admittedly been very few positives for the English national side but one of those is unquestionably Adam Lallana’s rise to prominence for his club and country.
Hard work & end product improvement
One of Lallana’s best traits over the last 18 months has been his ability to become a player who exhibits fantastic work rate while also providing a steady stream of both goals and assists. Prior to this season, Lallana had built a reputation of being a hard working, versatile midfielder with a sublime first touch and penchant for Cruyff turns.
His biggest criticism from every corner was, however, that he didn’t have a consistent enough goal output. The ex-Southampton man had appeared 26 times for the Three Lions and hadn’t found the back of the net once prior to the start of this season.
Since firing Liverpool ahead against Arsenal on the opening day of the 2016/17 season, Lallana has managed six further goals and seven assists for Liverpool in 27 League appearances while also managing three goals and an assist in his last five games for his country.
In fact, if luck had been slightly more on his side for England against Germany, he’d have had four but it just wasn’t to be as it pinged back off the post. The Englishman has been steadily on the up since Jürgen Klopp took over and his recent penchant to drive late into the box, drifting wide and then darting centrally at the right time has been of huge benefit for both club and country.
Paired alongside this new found ability to be in the right time at the right place, the midfielder has seemingly only gotten better in terms of work rate. The Englishman is sixth on the list of the most total sprints made in the Premier League this season with 1818 and he comes in sixteenth in terms of most total distance covered.
This work rate is also rubbing off on his general positioning and ability to make himself an outlet at all times. Lallana turned out as both a right forward and right attacking midfielder in England’s two recent matches but his touch maps – seen on the Telegraph – show that no matter where he starts, he’s able to remain elusive and ghost around the field.
While there is a lot to like about for both England and Liverpool’s current squads, there is a common denominator about both. Neither squad is exactly chock-a-block with natural born leaders and both England and Liverpool have struggled at times over the last year to break down low block defences despite boasting a plethora of attacking talents. Liverpool players, in particular, have shirked responsibility an alarming amount this season, often letting their heads hang and their body language diminish in low-key games that go wrong – such as Hull away or Swansea at home.
Lallana isn’t faultless in these situations of course and while he doesn’t possess a booming, natural general style of leadership, his effort levels can never be questioned and he is superb at leading by example.
It seems that his status as a senior member of a young England dressing room and evolution as a player on the field has seemingly been a huge positive for the midfielder. His bravery on the ball to try passes or tricks that nobody else thinks to attempt while there is a certain edge and steel to his game that often goes unnoticed by many pundits and fans alike.
In fact, Jurgen Klopp even revealed – to the surprise of many – that he himself sees Lallana as one of the players he can rely on in the dressing room to give the rest a kick up the backside.
Why does this all matter?
Adam Lallana is in an unfortunate player at this present time. He’s English – automatically making him ‘average’ or ‘overrated’ – in the eyes of many media outlets, he plays a position that is also home to revered players such as David Silva and Paul Pogba across the Premier League and he’s positioned behind a front three of Coutinho, Firmino and Mané who have generally claimed the majority of credit for Liverpool’s better performances. If anything however, he’s entirely underrated.
While his increase in goals and assists are what catches the eye – and to a lesser extent his wonderful Cruyff turns – his improvement in all-round maturity, leadership qualities and ability to consistently outdo himself in terms of effort levels and work rate have made him an invaluable player to not only England but also Klopp’s Liverpool. We’ve seen on multiple occasions this season that the Reds just don’t play to the same level when he’s not a part of their midfield three and there can be no questioning just how deserving he has been of the new deal he received recently.
At 28-years-old, Lallana is in the prime years of his career and will likely continue to be for the next three to four years. Keeping him as a key part of this Liverpool side is going to be hugely important for Jürgen Klopp and with Jordan Henderson’s injury issues continually flaring up alongside James Milner – Liverpool’s current vice-captain – looking likely to become a more peripheral figure next season, Klopp must surely be considering naming Lallana as Liverpool’s next vice-captain.
Add to this the fact that he’s even been touted by BBC Radio’s Five Live team as a potential candidate for the English captaincy and you can see just how far Lallana has come since signing for the Reds. This can only be good news for Liverpool.