A 6 month injury layoff is difficult for anybody. A 6 month injury layoff for one of the club’s best midfielders is even more so. But how do you rehab a player who has taken 6 months out, while also encouraging their development back into the world-class midfielder they once were?
That’s the problem with Adam Lallana – I just don’t know!
Since his injury, Lallana’s attributes have seen quite a rapid downturn. He’s recently returned to U23 football, but with minimal impact, and I’m slightly concerned that his best playing days might be behind him. However, I’m not ready to give up on his perfectly-quiffed head just yet!
As we move into January with a relatively easy schedule, and a decent league position, i’m conscious that Adam is coming up for almost 6 months without a first-team game, and that in order to have any hope at resurrecting his career, he needs to be playing. I’m keen to have him involved as soon as possible, partially for his own good, but also because the January transfer window gives me a very small window of opportunity in which I could replace him if necessary.
Nursing players back from injury is never something i’ve been particularly good at, however I have found that this year – more so than in previous years – you can’t just throw players in at the deep end after an injury and expect them to come through unscathed.
Fortunately for me, I invested in my midfield in pre-season, so unlike in real life, I haven’t had to rush Adam back to full fitness. However, in the absence of Coutinho in our midfield, we have often struggled to break teams down (this sounds too familiar) from midfield.
In order to avoid further injuries, I had to make sure to ease Adam back into action, giving him a fair chance at making it through games without a recurrence of the injury woes that have kept him out for so long. As I’ve said, I identified January as Adams ‘last chance saloon,’ with a string of games which would demand rotation throughout the month.
January: A Shot At Redemption
Lallana’s path back to the first team started in an uninspiring 1-1 draw with Huddersfield on New Years day, in which he played the last 15 minutes, looking composed and comfortable in midfield.
With his match fitness slowly being rebuilt, Adam featured for 70 minutes of our FA Cup tie against MK Dons, before being replaced by Roberto Firmino. The MK Dons match saw me switch from our usual wide 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 using Adam as an Advanced Playmaker, and it quickly became apparent that any return to action for Adam would probably result in a change of formation.
Adam, looking dangerously fatigued again, sat out our next game; a convincing 5-0 rout of Watford in the league, before returning for our match against Leicester. With the full 90 minutes under his belt, Adam was our catalyst in that game, scoring once and assisting both of Roberto Firmino’s goals, with Lucas Torreira sealing a 4-1 win.
A 10-minute Cameo in our FA Cup game was followed by a rest for Adam against Bournemouth, but i’m encouraged by what i’ve seen from him in his gradual return to play. Hopefully in the coming months he can kick on from here and help us cement our league position.