More haste, less speed. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow.
There is often something to be said for taking stock of a situation, for weighing up the options and taking your time to come to the right decision. Admittedly it isn’t something that Liverpool said often last season.
As you know, the Reds’ impressive campaign was largely based around a “hit them hard and hit them early” approach. A top-of-the-table Arsenal were unforgettably blitzed off the Anfield pitch inside 20 minutes, and they weren’t to be alone in their embarrassment.
“Going again” at such speed and intensity will be a huge ask for Brendan Rodgers’ side in the new campaign though. There will be frustrations and there will be sides who’ll simply refuse to bend to the Anfield narrative. Jose Mourinho wrote a manual on how to they can do it in late April.
That’s where Adam Lallana comes in.
Liverpool’s new signing from Southampton—a capture confirmed by the club on their official website on Tuesday—won’t be the answer to every question that the Reds failed to solve as their unlikely title bid ultimately unravelled last season, but he will provide the know-how to help get to the bottom of a few of them.
One of the Premier League’s strongest creative forces over the previous campaign, Opta claim that Lallana was responsible for making 62 chances for his Southampton team-mates in 2013/14, with only four of the division’s players stationed above him in that regard.
Key to this chance creation is his thought process, and that is what will have attracted Rodgers to a player who has been on the Liverpool radar for months, with the first reports of interest coincidentally coming in the week of that infamous Chelsea visit to Anfield, when the Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter suggested that a deal could be done.
Reaching a satisfactory conclusion to that deal has perhaps taken a little longer than both player and club would have liked, but then taking a little longer is exactly what Liverpool will want Lallana to do for them.
Picking the right pass, spotting the right run and threading an accurate assist is likely to be all the more crucial for the Reds in the coming season as teams will come to Anfield determined not to be overrun in the opening stages, as they probably were in the previous campaign.
Lallana will be expected to do all of this, but crucially all without taking too much time on the ball.
He is coming from a team which played attractive, expansive football last season so adapting should be a little easier for him, but it is the extra bursts of pace—both with the ball and without—which characterised Liverpool’s game in 2013/14 that Rodgers will need to get him up to speed on.
That doesn’t mean that the 26-year-old England international will need to be taught how to run faster, but crucially how to make his often excellent footballing decisions just that split-second quicker.
He should recognise this easily, as one of the best examples of it came in the Reds’ 3-0 win over Lallana’s Southampton at St Mary’s in March. It wasn’t their greatest performance of the season, but they were faster to every ball, using it quickly and well.
The new man has already got plenty of the attributes required to succeed in a Rodgers team, but it is this improvement which the manager saw from the likes of Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez and others last season which is ultimately likely to prove whether or not Lallana’s Liverpool career turns out to be a success.
He’s coming from good footballing stock, was a young captain in the Premier League and he achieved the not inconsiderable feat of making his way into the England squad despite not playing for the most fashionable of clubs. Throw in the fact that he got to know plenty of his new team-mates during the summer and has Rickie Lambert for company and everything is in place for Lallana to succeed at Anfield.
This passing sharpness and accuracy will be what makes him stand or fall, though.
A Premier League title challenge and a tilt at the Champions League—something which is really just offering huge excitement, not hopes of lifting the trophy—is what lies ahead for an admirable player who, if he improves at the rate we saw some of his new team-mates do last season, could end up as a truly special talent.
Lallana enters Anfield having achieved much in his career so far, but he’ll see this as the beginning of a new chapter in a story which still has plenty left to tell.