Adam Lallana: The cog who makes the Liverpool system tick
As he racked up a century of appearances for the Reds on Saturday, we flashback a bit and also analyse Lallana's importance to Klopp's Reds
“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” – Unknown
This adage probably exemplifies Reds midfielder Adam Lallana, who has been at the receiving end of fans’ (and some pundits’) criticism ever since his £25m move from Southampton to Liverpool in the summer of 2014.
The price tag and a pick of attack-oriented statistics have often been used as a marker to underscore his perceived ineffectiveness and some believed there was little tangible output from him to justify the massive transfer outlay.
The arrival of Jurgen Klopp to Merseyside over one year ago lifted fans’ chins off the floor and pumped up excitement levels. It was also seen as the beginning of the end for the likes of Lallana, who was probably topping fan polls for player ousters under the new regime.
However, the attacker is among the first names on the team sheet following Klopp’s arrival at Liverpool and on Saturday night as Liverpool hosted West Bromwich Albion, the 28-year-old made his 100th appearance in a Red shirt.
We take a brief look at the midfielder’s past – the ups and downs, what brought him to Liverpool and most importantly, what is making him tick.
A scary beginning
Having enrolled into the Bournemouth Centre of Excellence aged five, Lallana moved to the Southampton academy at the age of twelve after being spotted by a Saints scout.
While on a scholarship at the St. Mary’s academy, the youngster was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease which adversely impacted his stamina for over two years.
At 17, he was also threatened by an irregular heartbeat problem which required corrective keyhole surgery and had the potential to end his football career before it had even begun. Speaking to the media in March 2014, Adam reflected:
“There was a small chance that things wouldn’t go according to plan. But I was young and part of me didn’t really understand what might have happened. I had a good family around me, a good group of friends who helped me through it. It was just frustrating I couldn’t play.”
Fortunately though, the surgery was successful and Lallana returned to the fold after a four-month layoff and hasn’t looked back since.
Saints: The dark days of relegation and bankruptcy
In the early-mid 2000s, Southampton were struggling on and off the pitch. They were relegated from the Premier League to the Championship and went into administration at the end of the 2008/09 season.
This was Lallana’s first season as a first team regular at the end of which Southampton were further relegated to League One and were penalised 10 points for their financial instability.
He stuck with the club during these troubled times, not only due to circumstances but also by choice. His fitness levels - which suffered as a consequence of the bowel disease and the heartbeat irregularity - meant he was not exactly in as much demand by Premier League sides; but he did not want to make a move either, unlike then peers Gareth Bale, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain or Theo Walcott.
“It wasn’t a risk. It was just what had to happen. I don’t recall ever being close to leaving, or having options to leave. It was better to stay, have two seasons in League One. I did get left behind a bit in my development – though I think the likes of Gareth, Chambo and Theo have the X-factor. I’ve had to bide my time, develop, and get better with the coaching here.”
Southampton’s relegation to the third division and the 10-point penalty piled up pressure at a club which was already suffering from monetary troubles. By the end of Lallana’s first full season, there had come a time when staff wages couldn’t be paid for over a month. During an interview back in 2013, Adam spoke about those dark days:
“I remember getting a phone call and being told we weren’t going to get paid. This was in the summer after we had been relegated to League One and we had minus 10 points [after a deduction for going into administration].
Promotion and captaincy
Lallana had a stellar 2009/10 season scoring 19 goals across competitions and assisting another 5 as Southampton finished in seventh position despite starting with -10 points and also lifted the Football League Trophy beating Carlisle United 4-1.
The Saints saw light at the end of the tunnel with back-to-back promotions in 2010/11 to the Championship and finally in 2011/12 to the Premier league under manager Nigel Adkins.
Adam Lallana played a crucial role along with Rickie Lambert, and captained the Saints through this challenging period while also knocking up the numbers – he had a hand in 24 goals (including assists) across all competitions during each of these two seasons.
His contribution saw him being included in the PFA League One Team of the Year for 2010/11 and the PFA Championship Team of the Year for 2011/12, a considerable achievement merited by sheer hard work and noteworthy performances.
Starring in the Premier League for Saints
Mauricio Pochettino arrived to take over as head coach at Southampton following their promotion to domestic top flight football.
Under his charge, Lallana scored 3 goals and created another 6, thereby playing a part in navigating the first season’s obstacles as the Saints finished 14th in the league in 2012/13.
It was in the Argentine’s second season that Lallana’s talents truly shone through. In a free role in the centre of the park, the midfielder made a mark scoring 9 goals and assisting a further 8 as Southampton finished in the top half of the table.
His superb run in 2013/14 saw him being voted as Southampton Players' Player and Fans' Player of the year. His form also ensured constant speculation about his future as Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea were rumoured to be interested in securing his signature in the summer.