Not too long after Jürgen Klopp arrived at Anfield, it became clear that one of the new manager’s favourite players was Adam Lallana. The English playmaker at times divided the fans, with many complaining he had too many tricks and not enough end product. For Klopp, though, it seemed clear enough.
Lallana was a nailed-on starter, valued for his work-rate and his willingness to run himself into the ground pressing the opposition. He was gegenpressing personified, and as such he was one of the first names on the teamsheet. Still, a few more goals and assists wouldn’t have been unwelcome.
“I remember last season we had a talk,” said Klopp. “I don’t know when exactly it was, but he actually came to me and spoke to me. I didn’t really recognise it was an issue. Of course everybody could score more goals, but I was happy with his performances and we scored goals, and it’s not something you can force.”
If there was any doubt how much Klopp valued Lallana’s game, goals or not, it has come in pre-season and the early stages of the 2016-17 campaign with a shift in formation to keep the 28-year-old on the pitch despite the club having brought in a flashy new signing at what was his position last season.
Sadio Mané arrived and, instantly, impressed. But rather than taking Lallana’s place, it has meant a move back into midfield for Lallana and the apparent embrace of a three-man midfield by Klopp—something that goes against his preferred approach in Germany at both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund.
There will be teething issues with the switch—Lallana was to blame for Arsenal’s opening goal when he took too long on the ball, something you can get away with higher up the pitch when you have defensive cover. Yet there have also been positives. Including, ironically enough, an opening day goal for Lallana.
“I especially liked his goal at Arsenal,” noted the Liverpool manager. “Adam is involved and six players are in the box. That’s the sign for a good team performance and a confident team performance. That’s really important, that we have these different options in the box. That’s a perfect goal.”
“It’s not about goalscoring, it’s about being in the right positions to be a threat. They can all score goals. He’s playing in a new position, but it’s not too new. We changed the style a little bit and he is still a really offensive player. So he needs to be in and around the box in situations like that, and he was.”