Liverpool’s starting XI against Burnley last weekend featured the surprise inclusion of one, Adam Lallana, as the Reds looked to put pressure back on Manchester City in the title race.
Lallana’s selection ahead of the likes of Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri raised eyebrows as Liverpool looked to overcome their recent sluggishness and regain some momentum.
Lallana had become something of a forgotten man in the Premier League, and his appalling run of hamstring problems has left a large number of Liverpool fans almost washing their hands of the 30-year. On the evidence of his display against Burnley though, he has at least offered some food for thought for his manager. A display full of hunger and energy saw him inject real fire into Liverpool and with so much still to play for, the re-emergence of Lallana could be timely indeed.
Less than two seasons ago, the former Southampton man was one of the first names on Klopp’s team sheet. On the final day of the 2016-17 season, Lallana capped off an excellent campaign with a huge goal to seal a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough. It was a massive result that recaptured Liverpool’s status as a Champions League side and for the then 28-year old, the future looked bright indeed.
In fact, over the previous eighteen months, as Klopp rumbled through the wreckage of Sir Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodger’s jumble of players, Lallana had been the German’s top man as he introduced his high press at Anfield.
Klopp branded the England international as his “hunter” as he raced to two finals and a top four finish inside his first season and a half on Merseyside. Lallana seemed to thrive in his role of chaser and helped Liverpool emerge as one of the most eye-catching sides in Europe. He covered so much ground and hounded opponents into the kind of errors high up on the pitch, that Klopp’s teams thrive on.
The manager and the Kop took to his work rate and recognised his validity in the new look Liverpool. His injury issues off the back of such an important contribution has been cruel, to say the least.
Fast forward almost two years and Liverpool are an almost completely different outfit. The high octane stuff still rears it’s head on occasion, but the Reds have played with more control, organisation, and solidity since those hectic early days under Klopp.
Lallana has missed most of the previous two seasons. Featuring just 30 times since that celebratory day in May 2017, the midfielder has had to watch from the sidelines as the likes of Gini Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Naby Keita have moved ahead of him in the pecking order, not to mention the stalwarts, Jordan Henderson and James Milner.
It’s a congested place, that Liverpool midfield, but Adam Lallana’s availability should not, and likely, will not be overlooked by Klopp for the remainder of the season.
Liverpool are undoubtedly facing the biggest few weeks of their recent history. Not since 1984 has the club had this many points at this stage of a season, coupled with a place in Europe’s elite last eight. The stakes are high and they will need everything they have in their armament if they are to achieve the success their fans so desperately crave.
As the supports have been pretty much chalking off the days until Alex Oxlade- Chamberlian becomes available again, Lallana’s comeback has been relegated to a quiet subplot this season. However, it’s a subplot that could be oh so useful.
If he can be looked after, and played at the right moments, we may well see more eye-catching, vintage Lallana displays. The chaos he caused against Burnley, made one goal and created untold uncertainty all game long for the Lancashire visitors.
Liverpool will face those kinds of opponents plenty more times between now and the middle of May. Lallana should have a point to prove and football can bea funny old game when it comes it’s so-called forgotten men. The former Southampton man may yet have his own part to play in what has so far been, a fantastic title race.