Sharp I know, but bear with me.
For Liverpool fans who were at work/at some family do/in a cave this weekend, you’ll be disappointed, initially at least, to hear of Adam Lallana’s injury in the battling win at Swansea. For over an hour of the game The Reds had to do without his guile, energy and creativity, but fortunately fought to victory nonetheless.
HOWEVER, it’s not all despair sportsfans. The clever devil Lallana couldn’t have timed the injury much better to be honest, for over the horizon the club have a competitive break for a couple of weeks while the players venture around the world on international duty.
I’d expect, based on his club form and his goal against Slovakia in September, Lallana would have been starting for England at home to Malta and away to Slovenia, but now is confirmed to be unavailable for both games.
As much as I think he’s one of England’s more useful and most on-form players, and as much as I despair at England performances of late, I think they’ll cope quite ably with Malta coming to Wembley. England have proven my optimism wrong plenty of times before but surely struggling against them would be a step too far.
An away trip to Slovenia should prove more of a challenge, and personally given the state of the national team a draw would do to give England, surely, 7 points out of nine in qualifying, though frankly they should be looking to win it. They’re not going to miss Lallana too much. If, instead, Liverpool had 2/3 games of their own over the next fortnight I’d be absolutely gutted to not have him on the teamsheet because the lad is looking more fit, confident and clinical by the game.
So far, he’s our top assist scorer with three, and has added another three goals of his own. If he can continue to have a hand in an average of nearly a goal every game all season I’d happier than a pig in poo.
What’s more, his successful passing percentage is bettered only by skipper Jordan Henderson and defender Joel Matip, and his energy and fitness has come on in outrageous leaps and bounds since Klopp’s reign on Merseyside began. He is key to us keeping the ball in attack and winning it back when we lose it.
What makes his fitness all the more important is the distance his companions will be travelling in the next fortnight. Coutinho and Firmino will be travelling to and around South America on duty for Brazil, Mané will be in Senegal, and Sturridge will be off to Slovenia and back.
As I pointed out in a previous article chronicling the benefits of not travelling around Europe all season, these journeys will be likely to take their toll. Any attacking player we can spare the trouble of moving about the world will be invaluable to Liverpool’s fitness-based, Gegenpressing gameplan, and if Lallana proves his fitness he is going to be pivotal.
Klopp has announced that, while Lallana recovers during the international break, he should be ‘ready to be back on the pitch’ in ‘15 or 16 days’. Maths was never my strong point, but his groin injury occurred on October 1st and the side’s next game is on October 17th – he should be fit. And it’s a big one, as the enemy, Manchester United, return to Anfield for what will no doubt be another famous pasting.
I may sound confident, and it may be part hopefulness, but I am. Here’s why.
The gaffer knows his stuff so I trust his judgement. This absence from the England international team means one player in the club squad who won’t have to worry about the impact of jetlag and long journeys. I’m hoping he’s primed, ready and back to being as fit as a fresh fiddled flea.
Of the teams Liverpool have played so far, Spurs rank third and Burnley fourth in distance covered this season so far, and they took 4 points from us in the two games. Everyone else – who represent all of Liverpool’s 5 victories so far – are lower in this little table.
The less distance Liverpool’s opponents cover on the pitch, the better our result seems to be. Good god I hope that continues, because, so far, Manchester United have covered the LEAST distance of any team in the league.
Man City are the only team close to Liverpool’s distance covered that Utd have faced this season, and, in an interesting game, it must be said the Dirty Red Devils were second best and struggled to keep up over the course of the entire game despite playing on home ground.
That’s why we need Lallana. Not only have we covered the most ground in the division, but he’s been the pinnacle of that, covering more ground than any other player in our team, over the first 5 games of the season at least. This pressing, running and energy will be a serious weapon that Utd are likely to struggle against once again.
It’s what Liverpool do best, and it’s what he’s better at than anyone else. He is to our distance coverage what Jeremy Clarkson was to Top Gear’s entertainment value – for all the enjoyable factors about that show, he made it for me. Liverpool cover a lot of ground, but none quite like Lallana.
If Lallana can be fully fit for this game – and given his current injury, it is a big, BIG if – his energy is going to be more valuable than it’s ever been because his attacking companions will have been moving all around the world.
It depends on his fitness, but I’m hugely confident that, against a Man Utd side that don’t seem to be putting the work in, he and his teammates are going to have a belter. I really don’t think they’ll be able to cope and I’ve never been so excited for the end of an international break in my life. As blessing this injury would prove indeed.