I enjoy myself a morning cup of coffee. On the other side of the pond you might fancy yourself a nice cup of tea. Every morning I go through the same routine. Medium roast, slightly bold coffee, with a splash of milk creamer. It tastes good and gets my day going. I love a good, rich cream to take some of the edge off a necessarily strong cup of coffee and instantly know if something is off. For instance, maybe you’re out visiting a friend and he offers you a cup in the morning, but tries to pass off half and half creamer to you as if it were anything less than watered-down cat piss. You know when what you’re getting isn’t up to standard, whatever that might be, and half and half just ain’t as good as the real thing.
As Liverpool fans we fancy ourselves a good attacking player. Throughout our history from Shankly onward, at least one, sometimes two attacking players were always featured in our marauding super teams through the 60s, 70s and 80s and even into our down years of the 90s and on. So needless to say, we know a good attacker when we see one and can sniff out a fraud before he clears the tunnel at Anfield. In the current squad we have a number of players that likely won’t have much of a future at Liverpool under the new regime, but one seems to be dividing opinion more violently than the rest, being contested in the typical “will he or won’t he” type pub debate. He’s a spritely, little attacker who has certainly raised his level under Klopp but this writer can see through the fog and will try to cut to the heart of the issue. Adam Lallana is the half and half creamer to our footballing cuppa.
Now to start, I’ll say that I don’t hate Lallana and appreciate him for what he does. I think many fans (myself included) were left with a bad taste in their mouth as Adam seemed to be one of the “Rodgers Elect” and appeared to be favoured over all regardless of form under the last manager, but that’s not the Lallana we’re talking about. We’re talking about a Lallana that has seemingly been reborn under Klopp, which has led many fans to project future stardom for the bearded former Southampton man. He’s been integral in implementing Klopp’s philosophy and has been, in many games, the man leading our press (which Gags continually points out in his “Under Pressure” podcasts). So some might see all of those things as a collective and think “Wait a minute, this guy has got something, he’s an important part of our team moving forward…” ….aaaaaand that’s where I’m going to ask you kindly to pump the brakes. Lallana is an important part of the current squad but almost definitely is not someone who will play a role in this team moving forward (at least in the starting XI). Let me explain.
Lallana does a lot of what you need from an attacking player in Klopp’s uber-pressing system. He runs, he presses, he puts in the effort and puts the opposition under a great deal of stress. Like half and half creamer, he looks the part but when it comes to be tested (or tasted? How far will this analogy go?) he doesn’t cut it. That is, when Lallana wins the ball and has it in the opposition half, ready to break and start showing us what this Liverpool team can really look like, he cracks under the pressure. He either fluffs a shot at goal, misdirects the pass or simply makes a bad decision. Lallana in many ways has the same issues on the ball that Ibe has but is almost eight years older and gets a fraction of the grief for it. Adam is literally half the player we need in a Klopp attack and its starting to cost us games. “But he presses so well!” I might hear Gags say with a tear in his eye and a spreadsheet in hand, but that simply doesn’t do it for us. We need more.
So here’s the thing, bad cream can make a good cup of tea taste bad, and right now Lallana’s on-ball woes are making Liverpool’s attack look blunted. When Coutinho was healthy and he was connecting with Firmino (see Manchester City away) it could mask some of Lallana’s deficiencies but as we saw in the last two games (Aresenal at home and Man Utd at home) when we have to depend of Lallana with the ball at his feet, he just doesn’t have it in his locker to be the player we need and at 27, there’s little hope that he ever will. Again this can be complicated because of the hard work and good things he does off ball but we have to see the forest from the tress and understand that it just simply isn’t enough. What Klopp needs in his front four are players that can press like mad and score goals, Lallana is half way there but sadly that’s as close as he’ll ever be.
So where does that leave us? We have a few players that fit the mould on the attacking front that Klopp envisions. Firmino almost definitely does, if he can get into a settled side and start finding his place in the team, he can score and press. If we’re to believe Simon Brundish, Daniel Sturridge is being held back so that he can be unleashed like hellfire against the rest of the league, which we know a fully-fit Studge can of course both score and press, but who else on the team fits in this attacking system? Unfortunately not many. You would think a healthy Danny Ings would be tailor-made to fit into one of the front four positions in this Klopp system, with his maniac-like work rate and seeming nose for goal, but we won’t be able to find out until the Fall. Maybe a young Jordan Ibe will mature and turn his one-move repertoire into a bag of tricks. Or maybe an out of form Coutinho with a healthy Sturridge and a confident Firmino in front of him could find that goal scoring and creative panache again (instead of belting 10 shots a game from 30 yards out), because we know Coutinho, when healthy and motivated, can press efficiently, but these are all big question marks in a squad that needs a face-lift, and when it comes to the attack, I believe that overhaul starts with Adam Lallana.
It is this writer’s personal opinion that in the summer Klopp will find that goal scoring version of Lallana that this team so desperately needs. Meaning everyone’s favourite Nivea spokesman will likely be relegated to the bench or shipped out, but this is a good thing for Liverpool. Lallana is a good player and if a good player isn’t good enough for Liverpool it means that we’re truly striving for some great. Good just isn’t good enough for us anymore.
So take heart Liverpool fans, even if it’s quite bitter at present, after a disappointing 1-0 loss to Man Utd, our footballing cup of tea (or coffee) will taste good again. Just trust the brew master with the goods and next year he’ll bring it steaming hot.
Onward and upward Redmen.