Joseph Kavaloski discusses how Adam Lallana’s injury might force Liverpool to make temporary changes to the starting lineup.
In what has become an irritating trend for Liverpool fans over the past couple years, the Reds have suffered yet another injury over an international break. This time, Adam Lallana returned from England duty with a thigh injury that has ruled him out for up to 4 weeks.
Lallana’s injury has occurred at a brutal time for the Reds. The battle for a top four place is extremely tight and could be trending in Manchester United’s favour if Liverpool is unable to overcome their woes against lower tier sides.
Losing a player of Lallana’s importance is never easy, especially for a side that has struggled to replace key players out through injury in 2017. It is no secret that Liverpool’s squad is thin and with Jordan Henderson still fighting through another foot injury, the engine room is in dire need of reinforcements.
Throughout the 2016-17 season, Jurgen Klopp has stuck to his preferable 4-3-3 formation. As a result, it is unlikely that Klopp would suddenly change his tactics when the Reds have already stuck with this formation through various injuries earlier in the year.
If Klopp decides to stick with the 4-3-3, the midfield three would be in the hands of Georginio Wijnaldum, Emre Can, and Lucas Leiva. The problem with this lineup is where to play Can and Lucas.
Can has previously been effective in a box-to-box role, but it has been revealed that his struggles in that position this year have been the result of a nagging calf injury. Deploying the German in this spot would risk his fitness and place Can in a situation he will likely struggle.
Rather than pushing Lucas or Can forward past the holding midfield role, Klopp may need to revert to moving an attacking player into central midfield. The one player who should be able to do this relatively seamlessly is Philippe Coutinho.
The little Brazilian has been poor since his return from injury and the Reds need to him to find his mojo again. In Liverpool’s sensational 2013-14 side, Coutinho excelled in a central midfield role. Moving the Reds’ talisman out of the attacking three may be a risky move, but moving Divock Origi to a wide role is likely more palatable than playing Can or Lucas in central midfield.
Can has excelled in the holding spot while Henderson has been out injured and Lucas is unprepared to play in a box-to-box midfield role. In the short term, Can may need to play in Lallana’s more advanced midfield spot if Klopp is not comfortable moving Coutinho, but once Henderson returns, alterations need to be made.
Henderson has been excellent in the number six spot the entire season, but Lallana’s injury may force Liverpool’s captain to play further forward in a position he has excelled throughout his Liverpool career.
Can has proven this year that he cannot be effective covering the ground in the center of the park. Henderson, however, is tailor made for this spot as his tremendous fitness levels and under-appreciated creativity on the ball help him contribute in all facets of the game.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Lallana has been so successful in central midfield this year has been his end product. Seven goals and seven assists is a very respectable tally that Emre Can has shown no indications of matching were he to earn similar playing time. Henderson, on the other hand, scored six goals and nine assists in a similar role to Lallana in the 2014/15 season.
At this point in the season, Klopp needs to ensure that the club is put in position to win each and every match. If this means risking the fitness of the club captain until Lallana returns if he is a better fit for a certain position, Klopp needs to evaluate this possibility.