By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
He hasn’t been a regular fixture in the Liverpool first team since 2016/17 and has failed to take his limited opportunities in the meantime, so it is no surprise that fans questioned the decision to start Adam Lallana against Burnley.
The midfield has been the Reds’ main problem of late with a lack of creativity from the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho leading to impotence at the sharp end of the pitch.
Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah – normally so potent in front of goal – had been struggling to hit the back of the net and many though that a rigid and uninspiring midfield was, at least partly, to blame.
Many advocated for Naby Keita – excellent in the recent victory over Bournemouth at Anfield – to be given more opportunities from the start as the Guinean has never been afraid to pick up the ball deep and run at defences.
Instead, Jurgen Klopp opted for Lallana with the 30-year-old impressing the manager with his recent performances in training.
The German said before the game: “If you have five sessions a week, everybody can show up and Adam was exceptional during the week. So, in a situation where you think a little bit how you can adjust one or two things, it’s smart.”
Still, in a game as important as this – only a Liverpool win would do for the Anfield club to keep tabs on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League – the supporters could have been forgiven for worrying about starting a man who has struggled to prove his fitness in two years.
Alas, the Anfield faithful would be left pleasantly surprised by the Englishman’s contribution, as he would put in a strong showing from the very start to his withdrawal after 77 minutes, and deservedly took home the Man of the Match award.
Lallana looked happy to be on the ball, was always looking for a positive pass when he could, and was very neat and tidy with the majority of his work at Anfield.
Important too was his work off the ball – on a day where Georginio Wijnaldum wasn’t at his best, the former-Southampton man picked up the slack and covered a lot of ground, running the furthest distance of anyone on the pitch at the time he left the field.
He provided that Keita-like spark, not only dribbling at the Burnley defence with the ball but also galloping forward whenever the ball was wide to arrive in the box and give Jurgen Klopp’s side an extra option in attack.
Most importantly and encouragingly, he looked fit. Lallana ran around happily and with intent right up until his substitution, when he was given a well-earned standing ovation from the delighted crowd.
The 30-year-old still lacked an effective end-product, but he was still involved in Liverpool’s first with a delicious switch of play to Salah on the right and, with more performances like this, you feel that goals and assists will come.
Make no mistake, Adam Lallana must build on this showing and provide a consistent set of performances whenever he is involved between now and the end of the season if he is to truly convince the Liverpool fans that he can get back to his best.
The 77 minutes in the Premier League against Burnley at Anfield, though, was a very good start – long may it continue.