I daresay everyone has heard by now that Adam Lallana injured his thigh whilst playing for England and will be out for around a month, potentially missing six of the remaining nine games. I didn’t really think this was a particularly big deal until I noticed certain parts of the online community are acting as if our season is over. It is true that the absences of Coutinho, Mane and Henderson have cost us dear at different points of the season but I’m not so sure Liverpool are quite so vulnerable this time.
Why? It’s because of two reasons. Firstly, Lallana has mainly played in midfield this season and, fortunately, it looks like we should have adequate cover if Henderson returns this week, as planned. Secondly, the midfield options – Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Milner, Leiva, Grujic, Stewart and even Alexander-Arnold – all look to be in reasonable to good form. If Klopp can’t formulate a functioning midfield out of these players then really questions should be asked – this isn’t the bargain bucket selection we’ve had in previous seasons, there’s some decent talent here.
Where I can see a potential problem is with our creativity in the final third. Lallana’s quick feet and immaculate balance have given the side numerous openings from which to create goals. The issue will be who’s going to step up creatively in Lallana’s absence? Sturridge can’t even get onto the pitch at the moment, Coutinho’s form for club and country is a bit of a mystery (with the Liverpudlian Coutinho looking a shadow of the Brazilian Coutinho), Firmino’s form tends to fluctuate with that of Coutinho, and Origi is very much hit and miss. Our one saving grace is Mane but even he hasn’t regained his pre-ACN form. If we’re going to need a superhuman effort in the run-in it’s going to have to come from these players, not necessarily from a Lallana-less midfield that appears strong enough to cope.
Another issue that’s been raised widely is whether the England staff were responsible for Lallana’s injury. Footage of Lallana rubbing his thigh during halftime, before he went on to play in the second half against Lithuania, have exacerbated hostility towards the England camp (see below).
If we look at the cold facts I don’t believe the England setup were particularly culpable for Lallana’s situation. There were four days between the two England games, comparable with the Premier League schedule, so there should have been adequate time for recovery. If Lallana felt a twinge during the Lithuania game he should’ve let the England staff know – did he? If he didn’t then the responsibility for the injury lies with him. If he did then the question is did he say he felt good enough to play on or did the England staff tell him to play on? I find it hard to believe the England staff would persuade an injured Lallana to play on given the friction caused between Liverpool and England after the Sturridge injury debacle (something that occurred while Southgate was part of the England setup). If I was to make a guess based on probability I’d say Lallana more than likely felt a strain in his thigh and played on not realising the extent of the problem. He’s a player that clearly relishes playing for his country and there is currently a fair amount of competition in the squad. He may have let his heart overrule his mind in this instance.
Will Lallana’s absence cost Liverpool their season? It could, but in all honesty it shouldn’t. We’ve got enough quality available to put out a competitive team IF those players who know they’re underperforming find a little bit extra. The game against Everton should give us a fair indication of how the team will perform after Klopp has made his inevitable readjustments. Liverpool haven’t exactly followed the normal trends this season so all I’ll say is watch this space.