Why should Liverpool need signings, when they have star turns like Adam Lallana
Sadio Mane arrived for a reported fee of £34 million (Dh161.9m) from Southampton and Georginio Wijnaldum was prised away from relegated Newcastle United for a fee of £24m, with Joel Matip and Alex Manninger joining on free transfers from the Bundesliga and Ragnar Klavan and Loris Karius also arriving from Germany for relatively small sums.
However, in a transfer window where more established names such as Paul Pogba, Ilkay Gundogan and N’Golo Kante had joined sides expected to challenge Liverpool towards the top end of the Premier League table, you could be forgiven for seeing the Merseyside club’s dealings as a little underwhelming.
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Signing cheques is not the only way a manager can improve his team, however, and Jurgen Klopp’s work on the training field has clearly paid off with Liverpool’s current crop of players.
Nowhere is that clearer than in the case of Adam Lallana.
The former Southampton man has been superb in the opening weeks of the campaign, scoring three goals, setting up three more and turning in a number of fine all-round performances.
He was particularly impressive in the 5-1 defeat of Hull City last weekend, looking consistently dangerous on the ball as well as fulfilling his obligations off it, and it would not be an exaggeration to say he is Liverpool’s key player at present.
Lallana’s position has changed this term: whereas last season he was generally used either on the flanks or as a No 10 in a 4-2-3-1 formation, this time around he has been deployed in more of a midfield role in a 4-3-3, with Jordan Henderson stationed behind him and Wijnaldum fielded on the other side.
However, a look at Liverpool’s average position map in their six games so far shows that Lallana, 28, is still doing most of his work in the area of the pitch usually associated with a central attacking midfielder, with Wijnaldum typically a little deeper and Henderson always further back.
This allows him to combine with Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho in advanced areas, and he has really thrived.
Such skills have always made Lallana an enjoyable player to watch, but he has started to combine his existing aesthetic qualities with greater efficiency this season.
A return of three goals since the campaign got under way in mid-August means he is already just one short of his tally for the whole of 2015/16, while he has also been more effective at creating chances for his teammates, three assists in six appearances comparing favourably with the six in 30 he contributed last year.
Just as notably, he looks to have improved his stamina, with the previously fragile-looking Lallana now an essential part of Liverpool’s pressing game.
“Since I’ve been here, you saw,” Klopp said when asked about Lallana after the thrashing of Hull at Anfield. “It is not always about performing like this, it is about working attitude, it is about being involved in all the team things, in all the sessions.
“He likes to train, he likes to work. From the first day he was like this. This is now only the credit he takes from the work he did. All good in the moment.”
The England international’s endeavour is paying off handsomely, but Klopp also deserves credit for the role he has played in his transformation.
This iteration of Lallana is like a new marquee signing – and one that did not cost Liverpool anything in the summer.
On the chopping block
While Klopp will be keen to see his team extend their winning run to four games this weekend, the need for victory is far more urgent for Swansea City’s Francesco Guidolin.
The Italian’s job is reportedly on the line after his side’s slow start to the season, with just four points amassed from the six matches they have played so far.
Guidolin did well to guide Swansea out of trouble after taking over in January last term, and the timing of these rumours do seem a little strange given that the club’s board had all summer to make a managerial change if they so desired.
It is often difficult to assess such situations, with many different factors at play – some of which, such as the players’ faith in their boss, are not always publicly known – but it would still feel harsh if Guidolin was dismissed following a loss to high-flying Liverpool on Saturday.
The summer transfer window saw defensive stalwart Ashley Williams, last season’s top scorer Andre Ayew and strikers Eder, Alberto Paloschi, Marvin Emnes and Bafetimbi Gomis all depart, with Fernando Llorente the only newcomer to have started more than one game in the Premier League.
The squad was therefore weakened rather than strengthened, which was always likely to make this a season of struggle.
It is true that Swansea have suffered some disappointing defeats in recent weeks, namely a 2-0 reverse at home to Hull City and a 1-0 setback against Southampton two weeks ago. Their early assignments have been tricky, though, featuring clashes with Chelsea, Manchester City and champions Leicester City, and it would be interesting to know whether anyone at the club seriously expected Swansea to have done significantly better.
The club, in fairness, have got these decisions right in the past: Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk were fired prematurely according to many, but in hindsight both switches paid off.
Chairman Huw Jenkins and his board will be hoping for a similar outcome if Guidolin is dismissed in the coming days.
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Published: September 30, 2016 04:00 AM