For most of the fall, the only things preventing Adam Lallana from having a consistent impact on a struggling Liverpool side have been injury and his manager. Lallana has had bumps and bruises throughout his first six months on Merseyside, keeping him from getting a run in the starting eleven, but even when fit he's been left out by Brendan Rodgers. In an attack that's lacked creativity and ideas, Lallana has been a bright spot whenever selected.
That continued today, when he found himself at the heart of everything good Liverpool did in the first half. With Philippe Coutinho failing to influence the match centrally, Lallana was excellent on the left, creating a clear chance for Raheem Sterling and looking a threat throughout. His lone negative came on Wayne Rooney's opener, as his defensive work did little to help in a calamitous defensive breakdown, but heading into the break it seemed clear that he would be an integral part of any second half success.
Instead he was brought off in favor of Mario Balotelli, with the ineffective Coutinho and curiously poor Joe Allen left on. Questions about his fitness lingered given the revelation that he had suffered two cracked ribs against Leicester City--which kept him out of the 1-1 draw with Basel midweek--but after the match Rodgers explained that the move was purely tactical:
"With Adam, we just felt we needed something more through the middle. I thought Adam did well, but I felt we needed some presence and to slightly adapt the system."
Balotelli was good other than the finishing and Liverpool very well could have had two or three goals were in not for David de Gea and their own ineptitude, but the decision to haul Lallana off for tactical reasons is confusing at best. An adaptable, forward-thinking midfielder that is head and shoulders above any other attacking player over the first 45 minutes should be the centerpiece, someone who can fit as a shuttler in a deeper midfielder role if needed or brought centrally to link play and break into the space afforded by a disjointed Manchester United defense.
Instead he spent the second half on the bench, where he witnessed the "presence" of Coutinho and Allen fail to have any discernible impact and his Liverpool team slide to a humiliating 3-0 defeat. Of Rodgers' many puzzling decisions this season, his treatment of Adam Lallana is possibly the most confounding.