When Liverpool needed a spark at Old Trafford in October, it was an unlikely hero who stepped up to deliver it. Adam Lallana peeled away from the Manchester United defence to get on the end of Andy Robertson’s cross and send the travelling Liverpool fans into despair. As Liverpool’s star names found United’s resistance too stubborn to break down, it was Lallana, who turned the key to earn Liverpool a valuable point from a poor performance.
It was a goal tinged with a sense of redemption. May 2017 had been the last time Lallana found the net, on the final day of the Premier League season against Middlesbrough at Anfield. That goal capped the Englishman’s best season in a Liverpool shirt, as he provided the creative flair from midfield to support Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane and help Liverpool seal their return to the Champions League.
Things were looking up for Lallana, but a series of injuries have stalled the midfielder’s career. He has made only six Premier League starts for Liverpool since the end of the 2016-17 season, and his only appearances in Liverpool’s starting eleven this campaign have come in the League Cup.
It seems a shame to say so, but Lallana has been left behind as Liverpool have gone from strength to strength over the last two years. He was an unused substitute in the Champions League final win over Tottenham Hotspur in June, proof of how a player who was once a vital cog in Liverpool’s midfield has become a member of the team’s supporting cast.
His talent and ability have never been in doubt. Lallana is a rare kind of attacking threat — a player gifted with both feet, possessing an almost inhuman sense of balance and poise on the ball, mesmerising defenders with his quick feet and trickery. All these qualities were seen in abundance in the 2016-17 season, and when those traits are married with the tenacity that defines the defensive side of his game, it’s no wonder why he became a favourite of manager Jurgen Klopp.
Lallana has suggested that the goal at Old Trafford could reignite his Liverpool career. But it’s difficult to see him establishing himself in the current side, given Liverpool’s current status as Premier League favourites in the latest football odds. Putting aside Liverpool’s first-choice midfielders Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Georginio Wijnaldum, Lallana has stiff competition from the likes of Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to break into the first team. That’s not to say that he can’t have an impact this season. The campaign is long, the matches many, and Liverpool will need a bumper squad to compete on all fronts.
However, the key role he once enjoyed at the club seems to be consigned to the past. He became the archetypal Klopp player in the German’s early days at the club – the physical embodiment of the famous ‘gegenpressing’ system. In Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool, against Tottenham in October 2015, Lallana almost collapsed into his manager’s arms upon being substituted, demonstrating the effort the player had exerted throughout the match.
That sums up what Lallana has given to Liverpool. He has endeared himself to supporters with his non-stop hard work and 100% commitment. The flair and trickery are bonuses to these base requirements that supporters demand of their players. Without the injuries that have blighted Lallana’s last couple of years at the club, he would likely still be a key figure in the first team, enjoying to the full the fruits of Liverpool’s recent successes.
As it is, Lallana may have felt like an outsider looking in last season, but with this latest contribution, he has reminded us that he can still perform. You would expect nothing less from a player so determined.