Jack Hallows believes that Adam Lallana cannot be like the “new signing” he claimed himself to be and that the club should be buying a replacement.
Contrary to popular belief, Adam Lallana is a really classy footballer.
The Englishman is intelligent, experienced, genuinely both footed and while his end product has been called into question more than once in his time at the club, he’s actually very handy when it comes to providing goals and assists from deep.
It’s really a no-brainer as to why he’s a Klopp favourite when you think about it.
However, putting the manager’s favouritism aside, there are a number of problems that will undoubtedly come along with relying on the club’s no.20 to be a key player for the upcoming season.
Most of these issues in truth actually revolve around one singular problem: the player’s injury record.
Something that has only worsened over the course of the last 12 months, Lallana had a truly appalling time of it during the 2017/18 campaign with the midfielder’s body failing him on multiple occasions.
An initial hamstring issue sustained in pre-season kept him out until the Christmas period and despite returning around New Year, he never really got going, making just two starts all campaign.
His troubles were compounded further when in March, the midfielder’s hamstring broke down yet again and he was withdrawn just five minutes after having come on as a substitute against Crystal Palace.
In fact, the 60 minutes that a half fit Lallana managed in the Champions League final last season was only the third occasion across the entire season that he featured for an hour or more in a fixture of any kind. On the final day of the season…
While the Englishman spent the summer working hard on his fitness and even boldly claimed his presence in match day squads would be “like having a new signing,” for his manager, he has already picked up a fresh injury concern just days into August.
While for some players, an injury in pre-season is simply a matter of saying “we’ll just have to do without him for a few weeks and hope he hits the ground running when he returns,” there are sadly no guarantees over Lallana’s fitness anymore.
The Englishman has missed a worrying total of 349 days through injury since joining Liverpool in 2014, 237 of those since Klopp joined the club.
This equates to being unavailable for selection in 45 games since Klopp was appointed Liverpool manager, an occurrence that is still less than three years ago.
For comparison, ‘serially injured’ Daniel Sturridge has missed 215 days and 41 games during that period.
Add in the number of games in which Lallana would’ve had to work his way back to fitness, featuring from the bench rather than as a starting option and it paints an even bleaker picture.
Despite his injuries, it’s true that Lallana’s absence last season wasn’t too keenly felt but the club’s situation has changed drastically since.
The presence of Philippe Coutinho during the first half of the season meant that Klopp had an embarrassment of options for his attacking positions and the great form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from January through April ensured he wasn’t left wanting when the Brazilian made his exit.
However, with Coutinho now at Barcelona and Chamberlain out for the season, the Reds options have grown increasingly thin in the ’10’ and ‘most advanced 8’ roles.
Encouragingly, Xherdan Shaqiri did give a good account of himself in the role against Manchester United recently but he’s been signed first and foremost as cover for the wide positions rather than to feature as a central midfielder.
Considering this lack of options and the fact that Lallana’s injury record means you just cannot rely on him to be available, it baffles me that the club has opted out of signing a playmaker in this window.
If Klopp was willing to enter the new season relying on Lallana’s fitness alone for an option to fill the position then just how bad are Nabil Fekir’s knees?
It’s been suggested that if the club don’t sign a specialist for this position – a Fekir or Fekir alternative essentially – then Naby Keïta will be fielded in this role, freeing up space to accomodate both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in the same midfield.
The issue with this however, is then that some of Keïta’s best attributes aren’t utilised as the Guinean is just as good at breaking up play, intercepting passes, making tackles and covering ground as he is at playing through balls and creating chances.
Keïta is the archetypal box-to-box midfielder for a system such as Klopp’s and ideally, that’s the position he should be playing for the Reds in order to maximise what we will get out of him.
Again, Xherdan Shaqiri could be fielded as the Lallana alternative but as more of a straightforward ’10’ than an advanced 8.
The Swiss international is certainly capable but if this the road Klopp chooses to take, then the club will still need to move and make a further attacking signing to act as cover for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané.
I really like Lallana and if we were able to guarantee that the Englishman could stay fit and hit a patch of form such as he managed in 2016/17 where he was an integral part of Klopp’s plans, then I’d back him to be in our starting line-up every week.
Sadly though, Lallana is now two years older and his body looks to be struggling to cope with the demands placed on him by the intensity of this Liverpool system.