An ode to Adam Lallana: Liverpool’s first ‘Jurgen Klopp player’

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With Adam Lallana leaving Liverpool after six years to join Brighton, Jurgen Klopp is parting ways with the first player to truly subscribe to his ideals at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s voice cracked with emotion last week as he spoke about a final farewell for Adam Lallana.

The focus of many couldn’t be pulled from the lifting of the Premier League trophy which lay just hours away, yet Klopp had deeper matters on his mind.

The men who had made it possible. That’s all Liverpool’s deeply ponderous manager could consider, and rightly so.

Few have had a greater impact on Klopp’s Liverpool than Adam Lallana, albeit much more under the radar than the names constantly etched across the back pages.

Lallana’s role in Klopp’s Liverpool dynasty began deep in the foundations. The German arrived on Merseyside following an emotional yet poorly performing final season with Dortmund.

A sabbatical, serving to recharge the batteries, was cut hastily short by FSG’s desperation to get him on board. Klopp arrived following an embarrassing start to the campaign by Liverpool, tasked with coaching a side rapidly losing its identity while having little funds in the bank.

What he needed, pretty much immediately, was willing lieutenants to buy into the cause unreservedly and without question.

What Klopp got was Adam Lallana.

KAZAN, RUSSIA - Thursday, November 5, 2015: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana after the 1-0 victory over Rubin Kazan during the UEFA Europa League Group Stage Group B match at the Kazan Arena. (Pic by Oleg Nikishin/Propaganda)

The playmaker was 27 when the new manager arrived in October of 2015 and knew first-hand the transformative power of a daring and innovative coach.

Lallana had been part of the Mauricio Pochettino revolution at Southampton, after the Saints put faith in a little-tested manager and backed his philosophy.

Seeing what Klopp had done at Dortmund, Lallana perhaps above all the team-mates around him realised something special could be possible with hard work and generous helpings of trust.

From day one Klopp had Lallana on board, and for that, the Liverpool manager will always be thankful. Fans, soon enough, were set to see the fruits of this understanding appear.

Take the figures, they tell you all you need to know.

During the 2014/15 campaign, Lallana turned out 27 times for Brendan Rodgers in his first season with the club after signing. In those Premier League games, he provided three assists and crafted 30 chances.

For the creative link the Reds believed they had purchased from the south coast, this wasn’t quite cutting the mustard. Liverpool, of course, were struggling all over the pitch.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 6, 2014: Liverpool's substitute captain Steven Gerrard prepares to come on for Adam Lallana against Sunderland during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Luis Suarez’s departure had blown a hole in the front line of the team, as Rodgers’ job rested on the brink. Per 90 minutes Lallana was averaging 37 passes, making 12 interceptions and 105 ball recoveries throughout the campaign as a whole.

It wasn’t enough, not from a player who was supposed to be entering his peak and purchased as part of the all-important Suarez money. Liverpool needed more.

Rodgers was politely given his P45 and Klopp was ushered in under much fanfare. You wouldn’t blame most big-name managers for taking a look at players of the age and style of Lallana and seeing them as handy assets to raise funds with in the next window.

Klopp, however, saw raw potential, a player who would take all the gegenpressing medicine prescribed to him and gulp it down with glee.

The 18 months that followed saw Lallana become a model student. Always listening, always learning. His dancing feet gave way to feverish running, covering every blade and harassing like a bloodhound.

Klopp demanded, Lallana gave. It was a rinse-and-repeat cycle which never seemed to end. Liverpool became the ‘runners’ of the Premier League and Lallana was their poster boy.

It wasn’t all milk and honey during the early Klopp days but Liverpool’s No. 20 always ensured the manager had cause to smile.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Friday, January 22, 2016: Liverpool's Adam Lallana celebrates with manager Jürgen Klopp after scoring the fifth, and winning, goal against Norwich City to seal a late 5-4 victory during the Premiership match at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And then came the figures…

In Klopp’s first season, which only began in the October, Lallana featured in 26 league matches—only one fewer than he did during Rodgers’ final full season at Anfield. The transformation couldn’t have been more apparent.

Lallana scored one fewer goal, with four, but doubled his assist tally from three to six. His chance creation rocketed up to 47, charting in at 2.2 per match.

Despite these marked improvements, such figures were just a positive byproduct of what Klopp was trying to sculpt with Lallana. The real stats boosts could be observed with the all-action athlete which had emerged from the cocoon of development.

In just three-quarters of a season, Klopp had Lallana increasing his overall tally of passes by over 200, yet with exactly the same 82.5 percent accuracy he had produced under Rodgers. They were now shorter, sharper, with more intent and purpose.

Key interceptions rose from 12 under Rodgers to 17 under Klopp, with Lallana recovering the ball 138 times compared to 105.

The internet trolls of social media platforms criticising Lallana for one too many Cruyff turns were, in fact, paying the ultimate compliment.

Liverpool’s vital cog in a rapidly developing midfield had transitioned to a robust and resilient playmaker while still maintaining his artistic footwork and control.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Friday, September 16, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with Adam Lallana after the 2-1 victory over Chelsea during the FA Premier League match at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It wasn’t a phase, either. Lallana became addicted to Klopp’s style of play, craving the hard press and turning an aggressive defence in the final third to a clean-cut attack courtesy of quick dispossession and neat, threaded passes.

The following season, Klopp’s first full campaign with the Reds, Lallana smashed his glass ceiling.

League goals increased again, this time to eight. Assists peaked at seven while Lallana averaged 71 touches of the ball per match—compared to 58 under Rodgers.

Ball recoveries were up to 155, averaging just fractionally under six every single match—among the highest in the Liverpool squad. Key interceptions now entered the 20s.

If Klopp’s heavy-metal football had become Liverpool’s default style, Lallana was almost certainly providing the constant bass.

The growth of Lallana pleased Klopp and this, in turn, brought more opportunities. There came a period of time where Lallana was the first name in the Liverpool midfield, without argument. His importance could not be downplayed.

It was only the cruel intervention of repeated injuries that curtailed such a blossoming connection. Various areas of the body and varying stints on the treatment table. Setback after setback.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) celebrates with Adam Lallana after the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. (PA Media)

Klopp on several occasions looked to give Lallana routes back into the XI, despite his Liverpool side becoming an inspired monster of its own creation.

The chapter had seemingly closed, but only for one poetic swan-song in the form of a late substitute appearance goal. At Old Trafford, of all places, right in front of the away end as the minutes ebbed away.

A first league defeat was staring down the barrel. At that moment, while Liverpool still had City firmly on their tail, Klopp needed an impact player he could really trust to see out a specific role down to a T.

It was never in doubt that Lallana would be the man he looked to, regardless of his months spent on the bench.

One final desperate plea from the manager and one final answered call from Lallana, now an immortalised moment in one of the most important seasons in Liverpool’s history.

Lallana now moves on to Brighton, where he’ll hopefully become the main man in midfield under another exciting boss in Graham Potter.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Adam Lallana kisses the trophy after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Here’s hoping he gets something of an Indian summer from the final years of his career, because by christ does he deserve it.

As for Liverpool fans, they’ll always have those rose-glistened memories of Norwich away and Old Trafford, where one man played a huge individual role in the tale of a sleeping giant slowly reawakening.

Here’s to Adam Lallana, Liverpool’s first ‘Jurgen Klopp player’.

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