Adam Lallana - From zero to hero

Adam Lallana - From zero to hero
Adam Lallana has six assists and seven goals for Liverpool this season.
PHOTO: AFP

The boo-boys have turned into Adam Lallana converts.

The shackles around his £25 million (S$44.4m) price tag have been removed and replaced with a German label.

Lallana, initially deemed an expensive flop when he arrived from Southampton in 2014, is arguably the most improved Liverpool player under Juergen Klopp.

At Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time), his exceptional transformation manifested itself in another eye-catching individual performance.

When Stoke's Jonathan Walters struck after 12 minutes, the Reds could be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu.

After all, Mark Hughes' men were the last team to win at Anfield when they beat the Reds 1-0 in the second leg of a League Cup tie on Jan 26.

The hosts looked headed for another embarrassing defeat by one of the Premier League's less glamorous outfits until Lallana stepped up to the fore.

He scored the equaliser from a tight angle in front of the Kop in the 35th minute and ran the show from then on.

The Reds won 4-1, with further goals by Roberto Firmino a minute before half-time, Gianelli Imbula (own goal, 59th min) and Daniel Sturridge (70th min), to close the gap on EPL leaders Chelsea to six points.

When the going gets tough, some players eschew responsibility. Lallana demands possession.

In the absence of the injured Philippe Coutinho, his job scope is magnified for those who scrutinises his game.

LALLANA STEPS UP

The 28-year-old midfielder fills the Brazilian-shaped void to a tee.

He sets the tone.

He controls where the attack heads, and the pace to suit their beat.

He is the artery through which Liverpool's offensive football flows and yet also sets a fine example of teamwork with his diligent pressing.

The frustrating habit of dawdling on the ball has been replaced by a sense of purpose.

Intelligent runs into the penalty box have replaced the Cruyff turns.

Those thoughtful dashes from deep make him incredibly hard to mark, as was the case when he pierced through the Potters' defence to pave the way for Liverpool's comeback yesterday morning.

It was only after Klopp arrived in October 2015 that Lallana's star began to shine, following more than a year of looking like a luxury item Liverpool can't afford to keep.

This season, with a Klopp-enforced tweak to his game, he exploded into life.

He is the top assists man at the club with six in the Premier League, a mark which already equals last term's haul.

His seven goals to date is his best tally in a Liverpool shirt, and currently places him as the Reds' second-highest Premiership scorer.

This season, Liverpool have won 80 per cent of their games (in all competitions) whenever he starts and a mere 57 per cent when he doesn't.

In the four Premier League outings he didn't feature in the starting 11, Liverpool picked up just five points (one win, two draws and one loss).

His rise didn't happen by chance, as Klopp explained earlier in the month.

A switch to a deeper position for Lallana has sharpened his senses on the pitch which, in turn, is bringing the best out of him.

Knowing the right time to go forward and the right spaces to venture into have been key to his significant improvement, Klopp added.

As Coutinho continues with his rehabilitation and fellow attacker Sadio Mane readies himself for his upcoming African Nations Cup campaign with Senegal, Lallana's solid form becomes even more critical for a Liverpool side aiming to win their first league title since 1990.

BIGGEST COMPLIMENT

Klopp was more keen to praise the team yesterday than single Lallana out but, in doing so, he still inadvertently drew attention to the player's growing influence.

The Reds boss said: "He's very important but, if only Adam was good at keeping the ball, then we have a big problem. I saw no player who didn't do his job tonight."

The act of taking off Lallana in the 69th minute, though, was the biggest compliment he could pay to the former Saints captain.

Stoke, by then 3-1 down, were done and dusted.

Klopp was saving his best player for something bigger on the horizon - the New Year's Eve clash with title rivals Manchester City.

The rapturous applause that rang around Anfield as Lallana walked off the pitch was the resounding confirmation that his remarkable turnaround was complete.

LALLANA'S STATS
THIS SEASON

WIN RATE WITH HIM STARTING:

  • 80 per cent (12W, 2D, 1L)

WIN RATE WITHOUT HIM STARTING:

  • 57 per cent (4W, 2D, 1L)

EPL RECORD BEFORE KLOPP:

  • 31 games, 5 goals, 3 assists

EPL RECORD WITH KLOPP:

  • 42 games, 11 goals, 12 assists

garylim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 29, 2016.
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