Adam Lallana‘s debut was delayed by injury, but the 26-year-old is showing signs that he will become a key player, according to Henry Jackson.
Liverpool’s summer of transfer activity was extremely busy and productive, but by the time the new season started the man that had almost been forgotten about was the player the club had the spent the most money on.
Adam Lallana completed his move to Anfield in July for a reported £25m, after a superb season at Southampton which saw him nominated for the prestigious PFA Player of the Year award. Many detractors felt the fee was too much, and a knee injury picked up in pre-season seemed to put the 26-year-old at the back of the agenda.
He finally made his debut for the club against Aston Villa earlier this month, but his display was understandably rusty having not kicked a ball in anger since England’s doomed World Cup campaign in Brazil – injured in pre-season on his second day with at the club.
Against Ludogorets the following week, in what was his Champions League debut, Lallana seemed to be slowly getting into his rhythm in the second-half, only for Brendan Rodgers to, perhaps incorrectly, substitute him with a quarter of the game remaining. In what was a fairly lifeless display by the Reds, the creative midfielder was one of the few players who looked capable to producing something out of nothing.
The former Southampton man was then left out of Liverpool’s starting eleven for the trip to West Ham last Saturday, as Rodgers opted for the more defence-minded Lucas Leiva in his preferred 4-4-2 diamond formation.
A poor first-half display by the Reds led to the anonymous Brazilian being replaced by Lallana at half-time, and he was comfortably one of his side’s best players when he came on. He ran with the ball, showed some nice trickery and generally looked a class act. It wasn’t necessarily an outstanding performance, but it was clear that there is an abundance of natural talent at his disposal.
Despite the hugely disappointing 3-1 loss, Lallana could walk off the pitch with his head held high. Rickie Lambert, who was also with him at Southampton for several years, spoke of his admiration for the 26-year-old to Liverpool’s official website on Monday:
“He’s going to bring a whole new dimension to the team. He was unlucky to get injured at a vital time in pre-season. No player likes to get injured at that time. He’s come back and he’s looking strong. He’s only going to get stronger.
“He’s missed out on a few weeks, and there’s nothing he can do about that. But his attitude has been first-class in training. He’s been desperate to get back.
“That extra strength and that extra speed will come back over the next few weeks and you will be seeing the best of Adam Lallana, without a doubt.”
Lambert’s words came to fruition on Tuesday evening, as Lallana’s Liverpool career took another positive step. He was voted Man of the Match following an excellent performance against Middlesbrough, on another nervy night at Anfield.
The England international was the creative hub of the side throughout, showing some clever touches, good movement and an audacious piece of trickery in the lead-up to Suso’s goal. He also converted twice in the epic penalty shootout victory to round off a very fine display.
With four games now under his belt, Lallana is returning to something close to full fitness, and must be in line to start against Everton in Saturday’s much-anticipated Merseyside derby at Anfield.
With Philippe Coutinho out of favour after a poor start to the campaign, Lucas easily past his best and Joe Allen and Emre Can both unavailable through injury, he will likely play on the left-hand side of the midfield diamond.
There would be no better way to announce himself to the Anfield faithful than to score the winner against their local rivals, and it would another confidence boost as he tries to win over those who feel he has cost the club too much.
He still has some way to go before he gets back to the form that earned him the move in the first place, but the Reds have a real gem on their hands. He will prove those detractors wrong.