Of all the summer signings in 2014 it seemed that Brendan Rodgers was most excited about Adam Lallana, who he essentially chased from the end of last season until the deal was done after England's World Cup campaign fizzled out. Lallana was a standout for Southampton in recent seasons and seemed to fit Liverpol's preferred style of play perfectly, and when a deal was finally done it seemed clear that Lallana would be an important piece of the post-Luis Suarez era on Merseyside.
Only it hasn't quite worked out that way, with an injury in preseason delaying his debut and Rodgers hesitant to select the 26-year-old in the same side as Philippe Coutinho. With the Brazilian on form in recent weeks it's meant two consecutive Premier League matches on the bench for Lallana, and many left scratching their heads as they watched a Liverpool attack devoid of creativity leave their most expensive summer signing on the bench.
For his part Lallana doesn't sound terribly discouraged, highlighting the opportunity for improvements both individually and collectively as Liverpool look to put their disappointing start to the season behind them:
‘We all know results (for Liverpool) haven't been to the level we want them to be - we have to just keep working hard. I can't guarantee that results are going to change imminently, but I can assure you we are working hard for it to happen. I am enjoying it. We have got a nice couple of games coming up internationally, and we all know we are facing a big couple of Champions League games, plus we need to pick our form up in the league. I feel I am settling into the team nicely, albeit I want to up my contribution.'
‘It is a big difference coming from Southampton. I was expecting that. It is something I'm learning to deal with and you just have to take it on board. The expectation is there, so you are expected to play better and more consistently.'
Despite the higher expectations and increased sense of occasion he's never really looked overawed; he was one of Liverpool's best in the Merseyside derby and put in a solid performance at the Bernabeu, and in between he's provided plenty of impetus and workrate in a Liverpool attack that's done him few favors. When selected Lallana has rarely disappointed, and he's acquitted himself well in a squad still searching for players to lead them in a positive direction.
One gets the sense that Lallana could be that player, and all that remains now is for his manager to bring him back into the eleven on a regular basis to see if he's able to deliver on his hopes of contributing more in what's going to be a pivotal close to the 2014 calendar year.