Adam Lallana is the 'shark' that senses the perfect moment for Liverpool to pounce on their opponents and win possession high up the pitch to launch attacks.
In a new series on Liverpoolfc.com, Joe Gomez talks us through the individuals that have helped to make Jürgen Klopp’s side one of the most prolific in the Premier League and Europe.
We start with Lallana and get a better understanding of why the England international – back after a long-term thigh injury – is so often described as the player who ‘sets the press’…
“He always gets it right. That doesn’t just mean running, it’s timing,” explains Gomez, a teammate of the midfielder since the summer of 2015.
“He senses it; like a shark when they see blood, they attack. He sees when there’s an iffy pass or the weight of pass is off or someone has a dodgy touch, he is going to punish you quickly.
“Even if he doesn’t win the ball, he is creating the possibility for someone else to just from his press. That’s massive with the style of play the manager wants. He is so important.”
Lallana’s supply of energy allows the 29-year-old to constantly harass opposition players across 90 minutes and, so often, turn seeming lull moments into sudden scoring opportunities for the Reds.
He is a pest to defenders, a figure who frightens the other side when they are on the ball.
And Gomez should know: he faces the very same challenge in training.
“It’s because he’s so good at it. It’s not just pressing and you can shift it and go – because he will trap you,” the No.12 explains, with a knowing sigh.
“It’s frustrating because you’re always wary, he’s going to come. When we do 11v11s you can’t mess about with the ball because he’ll punish you. That’s what he does best and he starts it for us.”
Lallana enjoyed his finest campaign for Liverpool to date last term, contributing eight goals in the successful pursuit of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.
His momentum was stalled in the summer, however. A thigh injury sustained in the penultimate game of the pre-season schedule sidelined the attacker until a substitute appearance in November, which was followed by a minor setback.
But 2018 began with the Englishman back in the starting XI. “Outstanding,” said Klopp after his 86-minute outing in the 2-1 win at Burnley on New Year’s Day.
Gomez admits the return of his teammate’s fluid style of football – one that he believes puts Lallana among the elite of the game in this country – is a cause for celebration.
“He brings so much. He is one of the best players in the Premier League in his position and what he does,” adds the defender.
“I don’t think many people have got his natural ability with his right and left foot and the way he manipulates the ball.
“Everyone knows he has got the Cruyff [turn] and the way he moves the ball, but he is so intelligent with it. He can shift it and go whichever way he wants, dribble with his left or right. It’s natural ability.
“Everyone knows how infectious [his pressing] is. That’s something we have missed.
“He is massive for the team. What he did last season was phenomenal. We have been unlucky not to have him so far this season but everyone is buzzing that he is back.”