Although Liverpool didn’t win the League last time around, they certainly won the hearts of many onlookers. Their style of football was one that Brendan Rodgers had been trying to perfect ever since he got the job and last year his patience finally bore fruit. Having qualified for the Champions League, one of Liverpool’s prime objectives this summer was to stockpile the squad.
Having already signed Emre can and Rickie Lambert, their latest acquisition of Southampton’s Adam Lallana is one that is being with glee by their supporters. The 26-year-old midfielder caught the eye at Southampton and was integral to their success in the Premier League. The signing not only represents cover for an area of the squad that needs attention, but also signals a statement of intent.
After a long wait, the Reds finally have their man. Now the bigger question is, where does he fit in? Will Rodgers stick with the system that has brought him so much success or will he change it? Will Rodgers employ Lallana as a deep-lying playmaker or will he use him in his preferred position behind the striker? Here are some of the options at Rodgers’s disposal.
As the more attacking central midfielder in a 4-3-3
Comparison between Lallana and Liverpool’s central midfielders in the League last season
(All stats per whoscored)
Although Lallana operates primarily as an attacking midfielder, his versatility saw him occupy seven different positions for Southampton last season. One of those was as a deep-lying playmaker. If Brendan Rodgers chooses to use a 4-3-3, Lallana would be a perfect candidate to play in front of the two holding midfielders.
Gerrard and Henderson have developed a wonderful partnership in central midfield and Lallana would be a perfect operating just in front of them in a more attacking role. Not only does have the passing range to operate in that position, but he also a knack of finding the right pass at the right time. He offers mobility and a different threat in central midfield, something that would certainly add to Liverpool’s already flourishing front line.
Even though he played in an attacking role last season, his defensive numbers are quite impressive and the Englishman has shown on more than one occasion that he is capable of playing in multiple positions with equal ease.
As the central attacking midfielder in the front three
Comparison between Lallana and Coutinho in the League last season
(All stats per whoscored)
If Rodgers wants to go for a more offensive approach against the weaker sides, he is likely to employ a 4-2-3-1 with four designated attacking players with Gerrard and Henderson sitting deep and marshalling the midfield. Although he played with two strikers in Suarez and Sturridge, given Barcelona’s public pursuit of Suarez, the Uruguayan striker is likely to leave the club this summer.
If Suarez does leave, Rodgers is likely to go with a lone man up front in Sturridge and use Lambert as a Plan B. If he does that the player likely to battle for Lallana for the central attacking berth will be Coutinho. Both players enjoyed a wonderful campaign last time around and whoever doesn’t play in the centre is likely to play on the left.
In terms of his numbers, Lallana is the overwhelming favorite to take the spot. Although both scored the same number of goals, Lallana created more chances and had more assists than the Brazilian and also has a better pass accuracy. While Coutinho does provide more key passes, it is only marginal and Lallana would provide a more direct option for Liverpool.
As a left sided winger/forward
Last season saw the emergence of Raheem Sterling, who made the right flank his own. Unfortunately for Liverpool, they didn’t really have anyone on the left, quite like him. Instead, it was Coutinho, who was forced to play on the left, when it was very evident that he preferred playing through the middle.
The addition of Lallana now means that the Reds finally have a natural left-sided player who can take Coutinho’s place on the flank. Not only will he provide more mobility, but also give the Reds the option of crosses from the wings, as unlike Coutinho, Lallana is less likely to drift inwards at every opportunity. Given how both players can play either centrally and on the left side, it will also give the attack more fluidity as the duo can interchange positions at will and provide all sorts of problems for opposing defenders.
Wherever he plays one thing is for sure, the signing of Lallana has given them not just another option attack, but also strength in depth that will certainly prove crucial as the club seeks to fight on both domestic and European fronts.