Sitting in third place after the latest round of matches in the Premier League, Southampton fans will be pinching themselves at the moment. Now in their second season since their promotion from the Championship, they have gathered a group of talented young players who have exceeded all expectations so far. One player which can made a huge impression so far this season is one Adam Lallana.
I don’t think many people can argue on Lallana’s inclusion within the latest England squad for the friendlies against Chile and the mighty Germany. Roy Hodgson was watching from the stands at St. Marys keen to have a look at a few likely candidates for the national team and Lallana did not disappoint. His performances have been one of the main catalysts towards the Saints excellent form thus far and produced another fine performance on the weekend against Hull City.
His neat dribbling, close ball control and tricky wing-play has caught the eye of many spectators and his ability to attack opposition defenders directly has reaped rewards. There has been a consensus within England supporters for some time that there isn’t enough talented English winger’s available at our disposal, ones who can drive at defenders and give them problems with their direct nature. However with the emerging talents of both Andros Townsend and Adam Lallana, we may have two players who can, if they progress efficiently and perform consistently, become regulars within the England squad and bring some much needed flare and panache to the national side.
A star performer again against Hull City, the opposition defence was tormented throughout and wing backs were having a nightmare due to Lallana’s approach play.
The image above is Lallana’s heat map from the game, which shows the areas he frequently appeared within. As you can see he works very hard for the team by working his way around different areas of the pitch so his work-rate is fantastic. Although he predominantly plays on the right side of midfield (which is shown by a largest green shade), he will drift into different areas of the pitch in order to link up with his team-mates. For Hull City, this made him very difficult to mark during Southampton’s attacking play as he was always on the move and looking for ways to open up the defence. Having built up a great understanding with Jay Rodriguez and Ricky Lambert, who were also called up to the England squad for their performances of late, it gives the Saints multiple options due to the diverse nature of all three players.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino regarding Lallana” quotestyle=”style02″]Adam works very hard every day and little by little he is showing the amazing talent he has. He is a brilliant player. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
His attacking dashboard from the match shows clearly how much of a handful he can be. With 5 out of 7 successful take-ons during the match, his ability to skip past players with neat dribbling and gliding pace is evident and allows him not only to create chances for his team-mates but to also put defenders in a spot of bother and attracts them into making rash challenges as was the case in the first goal.
It also shows how much of a team player he can be and willingness to help out defensively in order to help his side when needed. Recovering the ball 5 times within the midfield as well as 2 interceptions and winning back possession once within the defensive third, his ability to track back shows how the attacking players are trained to make an effort all over the pitch which is one of the reasons for Southampton’s great start to the season.
Having been involved in the majority of Southampton’s build up play during the match, he won the penalty for their first goal by latching onto a through ball from midfield. It was a fantastic effort to reach the pass which was slightly over hit for him, and in turn, tempted the goalkeeper towards Lallana. A touch forward led to a stone-wall penalty as the goalkeeper had already committed to the tackle.
However, the goal of the match and in my opinion the goal of the weekend has to be the magnificent solo effort from Lallana. This goal, in a nutshell, highlighted the most dangerous aspects in his play and showed what he is all about. Having received the ball in midfield, his only aim was to drive towards goal and not even multiple Hull City defenders in front was going to stop him. Going towards the left of goal he dribbled past 5 players with great ball control and excellent trickery before finally gliding into the box and slotting past the Steve Harper with aplomb. This was his third goal of the season which has already matched his tally for the whole of last season so no doubt he will go on to score more. By chipping in with 2 assists so far as well, it is inevitable that he will overtake that tally from last season which was 5.
There’s always one surprise team every season and although there has only been 11 games so far, Southampton look to be the dark horses with an outfit that includes a mean defence, a disciplined midfield and a balance in the attacking third which suits them just perfectly. If they can keep key players fit and play consistently well as they have been performing, maybe a European spot is not far off the agenda
With Lallana in excellent form, he will be encouraged to keep his feet on the ground by his shrewd coach Pochettino, who must take huge credit for the team’s success since taking up the managerial position. Lallana will hope that by performing week in and week out, it will impress Hodgson and will do his chances to be included within the World Cup squad no harm. We may see some of the bigger teams chasing after the winger next summer but having signed a new contract earlier this year, it will take some persuasion to leave the club he has broken through with.
With tough away games coming up against Arsenal and Chelsea, it will give a better indication of how well the Saints can perform against the bigger teams, having already won points at both Liverpool and Manchester United. One thing is for sure, Lallana and his team mates will go into those games full of confidence and look to cause some upsets.