Having missed much of his first Liverpool pre-season through injury and having just returned to action over the past few weeks, summer signing Adam Lallana had in his first few matches shown flashes of promise but not the sustained brilliance many expected from him. On Tuesday against Middlesbrough, though, he showed he's at—or very near—full fitness and put in a Man of the Match performance for his new club.
His feet were as fast as advertised, and at times it seemed every second touch was a casual flick or back-heel. Intricate skill but always done naturally, as though second nature and without conscious thought in exceptionally tight spaces rather than the sorts of laboured, showy step-overs often employed by flashy technical players. The slick ball work was constant, but it was always about the most effective, quickest way to get the ball where he wanted it.
His main shortcoming, though, is just as well known: top end speed. He's an exceptionally quick player with the ball at his feet, his agility, acceleration, and ball control helping him to make or find room as well as any player in England. What he can't do is blow past defenders. Similar to a player like David Silva, it means that he can be of great use breaking down stubborn opponents but will do most of his damage by supplying teammates.
That relies on teammates getting open, making runs, and showing for passes. Against Middlesbrough that was a problem, and it led to Lallana often holding the ball for too long because too often the options simply were not there. Given time—not to mention the imminent return of Daniel Sturridge—this is a problem that should largely disappear, but it was disappointing on Tuesday to see so much of his good work go to waste.
But his work, his skill, was clear to see and any time he was on the ball was a joy to watch, expectation high for a neat trick seemingly delivered with a shrug or a blind alley easily broken out of as he waited for teammates to make themselves available. Tuesday was a chance to see what Lallana can do with the ball at his feet. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, his teammates will begin to catch up with him.
Video by LFC Tiki Taka
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