Adam Lallana’s first tweet on his Twitter account on 20th April 2017 reminded Reds fans of a player on the verge of a comeback in an attempt to help propel Liverpool towards the Champions League next season. The message, “Work, sleep, repeat…”
His fourth tweet, a lift Liverpool fans needed after the disappointing defeat at home to Crystal Palace read, “T minus 6 days and counting. Watford on my mind.” It practically confirmed that the England international was going to be back in the squad for Liverpool’s visit to Vicarage Road.
Nine tweets followed, all leading up to Monday night’s huge game where Liverpool strengthened their grasp on a top four place with a 1-0 win over Walter Mazzarri’s Watford thanks to Emre Can’s wondergoal.
With a crucial three games still to go, the return of Lallana to Liverpool’s matchday squad on Monday night was the type of boost the Reds needed in their bid to return to Europe’s top table.
Lallana was not deemed to be ready to start by Jürgen Klopp who instead stuck with the same side that lined up in the Crystal Palace defeat. With an injury lay-off of just over a month and only two full training session in the bag it came as no surprise that Lallana was sat down for kick-off.
He and everybody else would not have been expecting him to be thrust into the action so quickly, however, with Philippe Coutinho being forced off with a suspected dead leg before the game had even reached 15 minutes.
Despite being out of action for so long it didn’t appear that Lallana was easing himself back into the action. He darted around and quickly became involved in proceedings as soon as he entered the pitch.
The game was, in general, a scrappy affair. Liverpool retained a lot of possession but failed to make significant inroads into the Watford defence who were content to sit deep and force the away side to break them down.
Operating on the right side of the front three, the no.20 showed glimpses of his form from earlier in the season and for the majority of the first half it looked like he was going to be the man to produce a moment of brilliance to carve the Watford backline open.
It largely went unnoticed but Lallana played a significant role in the build up to Emre Can’s strike. Apparently boxed in on the right side he flicked the ball, in typical Adam Lallana style, to Divock Origi after drawing three defenders in. The Belgian subsequently played the ball to Lucas from the space created by Lallana. He crossed to Can and you remember the rest.
Lallana’s moment of skill helped open up the game and was something lacking from Liverpool’s play for much of the first half and at home to Crystal Palace where creativity was sorely missed for the most part.
He nearly broke the deadlock himself just before Can’s goal with what would have been a stunner as his first time volley crashed against the underside of the cross bar from just outside the area.
He also had the opportunity to seal the game for Liverpool when he was played in by Can from a devastating counter attack but his lack of match fitness showed as a poor first touch allowed the home side to recover.
Eventually Klopp decided Lallana could do no more running and replaced the tiring midfielder with Ragnar Klavan to help consolidate the Reds 1-0 lead which worked despite Sebastian Prodl striking the bar in the last minute of injury time.
What impact can he have?
As he let the pitch on 87 minutes it meant Lallana had impressively lasted 74 minutes and for a player who only knows how to play one way, press, press, press, it was a big achievement and a huge positive for Liverpool.
Whilst the amount of game time he got wasn’t planned it was certainly very useful and should quicken Lallana’s return to the starting line-up as the more minutes you get, the closer you become to full match fitness.
With games against Southampton, West Ham, and Middlesbrough still to come they have been the type of games that Liverpool have struggled in this season. They have failed to score against Southampton in three attempts for example.
Lallana’s drive and creativity from his deeper position is something which can only enhance Liverpool’s play as well as getting back one of the players who is crucial to the pressing game in which the team use to win the ball back and get back on the attack.
Whilst it would be a tough decision to drop any of the three midfielders currently in the matchday eleven, especially with three assists in five games for Lucas, you feel that if ready, Lallana should be included from the start against Southampton with Liverpool needing to win all three of their games to make sure of at least a top four finish.
The ability the former Southampton man possesses can potentially be the difference between Liverpool achieving their main goal for this season or not. He showed more than enough against Watford to suggest that he hasn’t lost the rhythm he had before injury, something Philippe Coutinho did suffer from earlier in the season, and this can only mean good things for Liverpool going forward
Goals haven’t been easy to come by for Liverpool in recent weeks with moments of individual brilliance more than excellent attacking play being key to the goals they have scored.
Lallana adds another attacking dimension, he has scored seven goals this season, to the line-up and ultimately one which could be hugely influential in helping Liverpool confirm their top four place.
If he can play at close to his top level in the upcoming fixtures then he may have just helped Liverpool put all of the pieces in place to get to where they want to be.