Pre-season is for building fitness and experimenting, and few Liverpool players could be said to embody that ethos more this month than Adam Lallana, who’s both trying to put in his first full pre-season in a couple of years and being tried out in a new role.
It’s the new role that’s gotten most of the attention, with the 31-year-old playing as the six—the deepest and most central player in Jürgen Klopp’s three-man midfield—in both pre-season games. It’s a first for Lallana, and it looks like the move might be permanent.
“Adam is the kind of player who can play that,” the Liverpool manager noted following Saturday’s 3-1 pre-season victory over Bradford. “He enjoys this, the ‘Jorginho’ role—but I hope Maurizio Sarri doesn’t see the games or he will make an offer.”
As Jorginho, currently at Chelsea, plays it, it’s more of a creative deep-lying role than a destroying one, but it’s still one that requires a player who can read the game defensively and offer a screen and protection to the defence through smart positioning.
Lallana, we know, is good on the ball, and shifted further back he should get more time on it to read the game ahead of him and pick out a pass or run. The question will be whether he has the reading of the game to be effective when Liverpool don’t have the ball.
Even if, with Fabinho still clear first choice for the six, Lallana would only be used there in games where Liverpool expect to hold most of the possession, being able to read and snuff out counter-attacks will be just as important as being able to pick a pass.
Still, given the club’s depth in the more advanced roles and lack of it in the six it at least seems worth the experiment—a few games against live opposition, and with the quality of that opposition set to increase in the coming weeks—this pre-season.
“It is about getting Adam rhythm, bringing him in early and doing things he is naturally good at,” Klopp added. “Small spaces, passing the ball, and then from time-to-time offering the runs in behind as well and together with [James] Milner that is possible.
“For us it is another option. He needs a bit of luck [with injuries], like we all do in life. We have to come through without injuries, that would be cool—then I would say we would have a couple of new players this season.”