As Roy Hodgson announced his final 23-man squad for the World Cup, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Adam Lallana – the Southampton captain – who has vowed fans and players alike this season, would be included.
After a modest return of 3 Premier League goals and 5 assists, Lallana has been the main creative fulcrum for the Saints this season, as he auditioned for a World Cup spot. His campaign has been recognized by his peers, as he was voted Southampton’s player of the year and also has found a spot in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
Adam Lallana has been at Southampton since the start of his career and unlike their other superstars from the club’s famed academy, Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he has rejected the chance to move early and focused on the Hampshire club. Lallana himself has said: “It wasn’t a risk. It was just what had to happen. I don’t recall ever being close to leaving, or having options to leave. It was better to stay, have two seasons in League One.”
Adam Lallana has been through highs and lows. During the dark times of administration, he has had to play a month being unpaid. On the flip side, he’s also gone through the euphoria of promotion. It’s this experience, that’s toughened him up and the reason he looked completely at home during his England debut. He has never looked back since promotion to the Premier League; culminating to that fateful day on 15th of November, 2013 where Lallana made his first appearance (and start) in an English shirt. Standing in the traditional white kit Adam Lallana knew this was his chance to shine and cement a place in the World Cup.
Lallana was probably the best English player on the night, putting in a decent 77-minute shift where he hassled and harried, piercing open the Chile defence a few times. It wasn’t a debut like his Saints’ compatriot Rickie Lambert, but it showed signs of promise in an ultimately disappointing 0-2 loss.
After that, he started in the game against Germany, where he made a few good runs but couldn’t beat the defence as England had back-to-back Wembley defeats.
Lallana’s big impact came in England’s last friendly, against Denmark. With England frustrated at their failure to break down the Danish defence, Lallana came off the bench produced a perfect cross for Sturridge to nod home. It was a wonderful cameo, one that all but cemented his place in the World Cup finals. After the game Roy Hodgson praised his impact, saying “From the 60th minute onwards we showed some really good play and Adam Lallana made a big difference.”
As for his World Cup chances, Roy said: “Yes he has [got a chance to play the World Cup], there is no doubt about that. He was very good. I was very happy with his two performances. He has shown he is comfortable on this stage and has a lot of skill. He’s been a major find.”
Which position will he play in the World Cup?
Given the need to accommodate both Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge in the same lineup, and Roy Hodgson’s insistence at only playing in a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation, Lallana’s likely role is going to be on one of the flanks. Theo Walcott’s injury has left a gaping hole in the England squad, and Lallana looks set to profit from it.
While most wide-players stand out for their pace and power, Lallana is anything but. He himself has stated: “I always tried to use both feet as a young player. I’ve never been blessed with out-and-out pace or power so the technical side is a big part of my game.”
Lallana’s style is more continental than most of his team-mates. He has arguably the greatest weaker foot in the whole England team, a far cry from some of his international team-mates. His left footed goal against Newcastle from outside the box was something special, and he is equally comfortable crossing from his left foot as he is from his favoured right.
DID YOU KNOW | This is Southampton’s best showing in a World Cup in terms of representatives with SIX players turning up for their respective countries. Their previous best was three in 2002.
The last English player from Southampton to represent his country at a World Cup was Wayne Bridge in 2002.
The first ever Southampton player to participate in a World Cup was also a winger, Terry Paine when he turned up for England’s 1966 winning team
Adam Lallana likes to drift inside and find space in between the midfield and defence. His dribbling is very good in this regard while he also draws a lot of fouls. His passing is one of his main fortes, as his vision surpasses many of his peers. Adam Lallana averages 2 key passes a game. He likes to pass the ball, easily trumping in passing, crosses and lofted balls among all his competitors.
The thing about Lallana is that while he likes to keep the ball down and pass it around, he is just as willing to do the dirty work and track his full back; although sometimes his habit of cutting in leaves him trailing his marker if the ball is turned over. Still, his defensive tackles and interceptions are an added benefit to his overall game.
Lallana’s ability to cut in and interchange with Rooney as well, being one of the few imaginative and creative sparks in the team, looks set to earn him a first team spot in the team alongside a more out-and-out winger. Whether that is on the left or right however; remains to be seen.
How will he impact the group stages?
After the three international warmup friendlies against Peru, Ecuador and Honduras; England will start their World Cup campaign in Group D – containing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. Assuming Lallana plays well in the warmups and his competitors don’t significantly outshine him, Lallana should be expected to start against Italy.
Italy have seemed to finally settle on the 4-3-3 formation, taking advantage of their new influx on wingers. They can however, switch to a 4-4-2 diamond or a 3-5-2 with relative ease; no-one really knows what they will play (except Cesare Prandelli). Still, whatever they line up with, Lallana would be expected to play in the right hand side of midfield. Chellini at the left is a converted centre-back and thus is not a major threat on the attack.
England won’t see much of the ball and will most likely resort to Hodgson’s pragmatic tactics, which will see Lallana have to make the best of whatever little chances he gets. His penchant to cut and find space may well be rewarded. Andrea Pirlo has been a revelation in the twilight of his career, but his lack of mobility due to age may well be exploited by Lallana. Additionally, depending on which formation Roy starts with, Lallana could well be tasked to be the man to stop Pirlo – in a similar vein to what Oscar did with Chelsea 2 years ago. Such a performance would go a long way to making his stock grow. Lallana will need to be proficient in possession while also finishing whatever chance he gets. This is his chance to shine.
After the match against Italy, England face a daunting and potentially do-or-die match against Uruguay, spearheaded by the daunting duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. There is also the 2010 World Cup’s Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan to contend with – though age has caught up with him since then.
Uruguay are mainly a 4-4-2 team, though they have also like Italy showed a penchant to chop and change – having played a 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 over the past year. However, their defence is slow and shaky while their 4-4-2 leaves space in between the lines. Provided Roy Hodgson gets his tactics right, Adam Lallana can wreak havoc where he plays in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3.
England finish their group-stage against Costa Rica. Given the difficult opposition in the previous two games, chances are, they’ll need to get a result against the North American side to ensure progress to the knock-out round. Coach Pinto have been seen deploying a 5-4-1 formation in the past, which they’re expected to do so in Brazil as well.
However, it might be fair to speculate the possibility of a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude in the last group game. Either way, Lallana’s task will be simple and similar to the previous games. Hodgson will look to play to his side’s strengths, rather than containing Costa Rica and Lallana’s role of creativity and supply from wide areas will be retained.