Liverpool’s graduation from title believers into contenders this season has left one man in particular lagging behind.
A Reds side who were previously so synonymous with the heavy metal approach under Jurgen Klopp are starting to show a maturer pragmatism in their bid to outlast Man City.
So it’s perhaps poignant and fitting that the flag bearer of Klopp’s gung-ho mantra now looks lost in the current system.
Adam Lallana has been, and always will be, one of the most easy-on-the-eye English footballers of his generation.
The former Southampton captain is a throwback to the Glenn Hoddle school of thought, playing the beautiful game the beautiful way.
But when Klopp has morphed this Liverpool team into a more ruthless force, end product becomes the priority.
Reds fans will admit they’ve seen more Hollywood football in the last two years than this season… yet here they are, currently sat pretty atop the Premier League tree.
Lallana is the fall guy.
Ravaged by injuries, he was once the vital cog in Klopp’s fluid system as the link man between midfield and attack.
Lallana started the 2016/17 season with seven goals and as many assists in his first 17 games.
In October 2017 Gareth Southgate valued him more than Dele Alli, saying: “In my [first] year in charge Adam Lallana has been our best player.
“There are some players who can unlock defences and score goals.
“Dele is an interesting player. If you analyse his game closely he’s a scorer of goals and he’s not necessarily the link player Adam is.”
But, after 18 months on and off the treatment table, Liverpool and England have moved on to bigger and better things without him.
Lallana returned from injury to start in the recent wins over Huddersfield and Cardiff but failed to make a lasting impression.
He remains a wonderful player to watch but he’s guilty too often of Cruyff-turning himself into a dead end just as the Liverpool attack is gathering momentum.
Contrast that with his replacement against Cardiff Xherdan Shaqiri, who has became an instant hit after his bargain £13m move from Stoke in the summer.
It speaks volumes that, after Lallana went off midway through the second half, Shaqiri inspired a much slicker Liverpool to put three more goals past the hapless Bluebirds.
Instead of slowing the build up down with a needless trick, the Reds scored twice with two direct and brutal moves that Lallana had previously been hindering.
Klopp is always likely to have a soft spot for him and his versatility makes him a useful squad asset.
But Lallana is beginning to feel like yesterday’s man when today’s side have got their eyes on bigger prizes.
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