As the Merseyside Derby draws closer, with pressure building around what seems the most important derby since the FA Cup semi-final of April 2012, and Liverpool immersed in a fascinatingly competitive rat-race for Champions League qualification, the FA could not help but get involved in some way or another.
This involvement, unsurprisingly, yet still perplexingly, was the injury of Adam Lallana whilst on international duty with the England team. With reports anticipating Lallana being sidelined for a month, at face-value, it appears that Liverpool are in a dire strait.
This season, Lallana has flourished in the midfield role ascribed to him by manager Jürgen Klopp, and has been applauded by pundits and fans alike, earning himself a new contract in the process. With the Merseyside Derby looming, and reports suggesting his expected absence from the team to last around a month, could this be a mortal blow to Liverpool’s Champions League ambitions?
Curiously, for a man described as ‘in-form’, Adam Lallana’s tangible direct output, (i.e. goals and assists) has been non-existent in 2017. In the 13 games following Liverpool’s 1-0 home victory over Manchester City, Lallana failed to register a single goal or assist. This run included games against Manchester Utd, Swansea, Plymouth, Southampton, Wolves, and Hull, amongst others. Perhaps it is unfair to criticise one player for their output within an underperforming squad, but what we can assert is that the team and Lallana in particular struggle against sides that play directly, with a low-block or both. When we look beyond the Everton game though, it becomes immediately apparent that playing well against a low-block is absolutely paramount to achieving those Champions League qualification ambitions: Bournemouth (H), Stoke (A), West Brom (A), Crystal Palace (H), Watford (A), Southampton (H), West Ham (A) and Middlesbrough (H) are the teams that await Liverpool after the Derby, and it would hardly take a genius to anticipate the tactics which are likely employed against Liverpool.
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