Jack Hallows looks at Adam Lallana’s struggles against his former club Southampton and why he’ll have to be on top form this weekend when they come to Anfield if Liverpool is going to get a result.
Despite it being due to a Philippe Coutinho injury, seeing Adam Lallana return to the pitch earlier this week against Watford was a more than welcome sight for myself and many other Reds.
The Englishman has been one of Liverpool’s best and most important players this season with his work ethic, performance level and newfound end product all being huge contributors to Jürgen Klopp’s men being right in the competition for the Champions League places
However, this weekend he faces a personal test like no other: his old club Southampton.
Opportunity to lead by example
This game is huge in the bigger picture of Liverpool’s season. The Reds haven’t beaten Southampton since the 6-1 thrashing in the EFL Cup back in November 2015 but go into this match needing to take three points at every single opportunity to secure Champions League football.
Lallana is often mentioned – to the surprise of many – by Klopp as one of the biggest leaders in the Liverpool changing room and this game is the perfect chance for him to lead by example on the pitch too.
The Englishman has really embraced being one of the ‘senior’ players in the Liverpool camp this season, often letting his feet do the talking but also not being afraid to give others a bollocking or get stuck into confrontations with opponents.
While all this is great, however, Lallana still hasn’t scored or assisted a league goal this calendar year with all 14 of his goal contributions coming before the turn of the year.
He’s still been an important player don’t get me wrong but Jürgen Klopp will hope that he can rediscover the creativity and penetration from midfield that made him so dangerous throughout the first half of the season.
Shrugging off the away support
It’s no secret that Lallana – like fellow former Southampton man Dejan Lovren – is often affected hugely by playing against his former club.
It’s no surprise really; Lallana played for them for 8 years, helped them to secure promotion into the Premier League and captained them when they got there. He loved that club and put his heart and soul into it – much like he currently does for Liverpool – so of course, it’s going to hurt when they boo and jeer him in an attempt to throw him off his game.
If, however, there’s any time for the midfielder to prove the new mental strength he’s shown this season is no facade, it’s this weekend.
The Reds are three games away from Champions League football and with Philippe Coutinho expected to make a full recovery in time for kick off, it’s almost guaranteed that Lallana will line up in his favoured position on the right side of Klopp’s midfield three.
In his favoured position, backed by the home support and surrounded by a strong Liverpool line-up, there can be no excuses.
The away support will try to get under his skin but Anfield will be louder. The home fans will be behind him every single step of the way and will cheer every Cruyff turn, back heel, spin and successful instance of pressure that he provides.
Have as much sentiment towards Southampton as you want Adam, you’ve earned that right but do it after the game. For those 90 minutes, focus solely on helping Liverpool to win that game.
Good signs against Watford a timely reminder
You just have to go back and watch the match against Watford for a reminder of how important this man is to Jürgen Klopp.
The game as a whole was a poor affair and – Emre Can’s goal aside – won’t exactly go down as a spectacle but Lallana still shone brightly with an encouraging performance.
He was understandably rusty at times having been out for over a month but overall he was very impressive. The Englishman boasted an 88% passing success rate, played one key pass, completed four take-ons and two crosses, chipped in with one defensive action and showcased sublime technique as he sent a left-footed volley crashing against the crossbar.
When he’s not playing Liverpool’s midfield just isn’t the same. All credit to Can, Wijnaldum and Lucas, of course, as that trio has been fantastic in all of Liverpool’s recent fixtures bar Palace but the creativity, dynamism and work ethic that Lallana brings is unrivalled by any of them.
His ability to not only find space himself but create it for others was singled out prior to the Watford game by Troy Deeney as his biggest fear when playing Liverpool and it’s fair to see why.
Lallana’s quick feet and ability to use his right and left equally allows him not only to jink and twist his way past opponents but open up passes that other players in the squad wouldn’t be able to provide.
The former Saints man was constantly looking as if he’d run into dead ends down the right flank at Watford but a wonderful combination of a quick shift of his feet and a little bit of trickery saw him get away from trouble more often than not. Even in the build up to Emre Can’s wonder goal, Lallana shifts the ball from his right to his left and back before backheeling a cute pass to Origi who squared to Lucas and the rest is history.
It’s a huge game this weekend. The first of ‘three finals’ as all of the squad seem to be intent on demonstrating and Lallana is going to be absolutely key to getting us three points.
A solid 8/10 performance from him is always going to raise the games of the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Can etc. and this is only going to be to our benefit. Let’s hope he can finally get over this emotional hurdle and put his old club to the sword.