Stoke vs Liverpool: Adam Lallana ready to take lead in Reds revival

Liverpool return to scene of 6-1 mauling

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The Independent Online

Adam Lallana clutches at his knee as he sits down, pulling it back  towards his chest as if illustrating the need to hold on to something. He bows his head and begins to repent. He is remembering Liverpool’s game at Stoke City on the final day of last season, conceding that “words were said” in the dressing room after his side let in five first-half goals. He is trying to explain a humiliating defeat.

“No one likes to get beaten,  especially 6-1,” he says. “It’s an  embarrassing result for Liverpool Football Club. We’re a team that shouldn’t be losing in that way.”

When Lallana was told who Liverpool’s opponents were on the opening weekend of the new Premier League campaign, he thought, “typical”. “On a serious note,” he adds, “it’s a good fixture for us. It’s fresh in our minds what happened and we want to put it right. ”

You can sense the frustration in Lallana. He is keen to stop talking about the past. He is keener to focus on the future. Yet he acknowledges symmetry exists between the pressure on Liverpool, the pressure on manager Brendan Rodgers and,  indeed, the pressure on himself.

Lallana admitted late last season that it had been a disappointing year for him on a personal level. An injury led to a delayed start to his Liverpool career. He struggled to meet the speed of the Premier League on his return to the team at the end of September, perhaps  understandably considering he had not featured in any warm-up matches. And when he did begin playing regularly, scoring a few impressive goals, he was regularly substituted, leading to the perception that he was not fit enough.

It was not the first time questions have been asked about his physical capacity. As a teenager he was diagnosed with colitis and an irregular heartbeat. He stayed at Southampton, while the likes of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made moves to bigger clubs before they were 20.

These experiences made him more determined to make it as a top-level footballer. Yet Lallana knows that, aged 27, he must emerge as one of Liverpool’s leading figures, particularly with Steven Gerrard gone. “I’ve had a good pre-season and I can’t wait to get going; let my football do the talking,” he says.

Unlike last summer, preparation has been seamless. Lallana speaks about the improved atmosphere around the  Melwood training ground: “The club had come so close to winning the Premier League. There was disappointment – I’m not going to say hangover– just a bit deflated.”

 

In between attending the Wimbledon tennis championships as a spectator (he witnessed Dustin Brown’s shock defeat of Rafael Nadal), Lallana spent most of his time off relaxing before returning to Melwood. On Liverpool’s tour of the Far East, he scored twice and has since been singled out by Rodgers as a player who he expects to become a leader of his squad.

“There’s a good mood, there’s been a good pre-season. A lot of the signings happened early and we’ve managed to bond, go away and train, play a lot of games  together. We’re more confident.”

Lallana arrived as Liverpool’s second most expensive signing. Now he is fourth following the recruitment of Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino. Firmino’s  arrival means Lallana appreciates he must find momentum in his game quickly, for the Brazilian’s favoured position is in the same area of the field: drifting inside from the left of attack.

“We’ve made some great additions to the squad but that’s no guarantee you’re going to win your first six or seven games,” he reasons. “We’ve got a great squad with great options. Big Christian has looked great. He might not have had the amount of games he wanted in pre-season, but day by day he’s getting fitter. It looks promising.”

And with that, Lallana lets go of his knee.

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