It’s not that Adam Lallana is a bad player, more that he’s the wrong one - for Liverpool at least.
Lallana is frequently whipped with his transfer-fee and that’s slightly unfair: players don’t decide their values and the English market traditionally over-prices any homegrown player under the age of twenty-eight.
But nevertheless, Liverpool did spend over £20m on Lallana and that is starting to look like one of the worst transfers in recent history.
Yesterday provided a pertinent example of why this hasn’t gone well: simplification though it may be, Lallana doesn’t do nearly enough when given the opportunity to start - especially in games which are likely to be tight and during which opportunities are scarce.
Stylistically, he’s quite ponderous. At Southampton, the speed at which he processed the game and made decisions seemed always to be much quicker. His first-touch is very good, his imagination for the game is fairly broad and he is capable of changing games when inside the final-third.
Or at least, he was.
Presumably, part of the decision to bring to Anfield hinged on his defensive contribution. Mauricio Pochettino encouraged a high, energetic press in his one full season at St Mary’s and that - in combination with his attacking production - characterised Lallana as someone who could create and score goals, but also theoretically fit into Brendan Rodgers’ own philosophy.
Maybe it’s a fitness issue or maybe the Liverpool shirt weighs too heavily on his shoulders, but everything he does - with and without the ball - seems afflicted with hesitation. His performances on Merseyside are reminiscent of those he typically gave for England after his initial call-up, during which he played with a hesitancy with which he wasn’t associated at a club-level.
That’s the hallmark of a player who isn’t convinced that he belongs in an environment - and it’s troubling that that’s become a characteristic of his domestic contribution, too.
Increasingly, this seems like a mental problem. He doesn’t take defenders on as much as he used to, his release of the ball is much slower, and it’s almost he’s more concerned with not doing anything wrong as he is with actually changing the game around him. At Southampton his shoulders were broad: he wasn’t afraid of turning the ball over in pursuit of an opportunity and there wasn’t the same air of reticence which now fogs his game.
It would be reductive to say that he just isn’t good enough or to target him without acknowledging the myriad issues within the Liverpool side, but there’s no obvious justification for his continued inclusion - and, given that he’s approaching his twenty-eighth birthday, his declining re-sale value is starting to become relevant.
The question for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool is really this: can you imagine winning a Premier League title with this version of Adam Lallana?