Adam Lallana's return solves a problem but creates tactical dilemma ahead of Fulham

By Sam Cox

Brighton midfielder Adam Lallana has completed 90 minutes just three times since his arrival from Liverpool
Brighton midfielder Adam Lallana has completed 90 minutes just three times since his arrival from Liverpool

With Adam Lallana expected to return to the Brighton & Hove Albion squad in tonight's match with Fulham, Graham Potter has a season-defining decision to make.

The 32-year-old is once again available for selection after a short-term lay-off with injury, and his return couldn’t have come at a more important time for the club as the Seagull’s look to pull themselves away from the relegation zone.

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A win against the Cottagers would open up an eight-point gap between them and the west London club, and Potter will have to decide whether to start the former Liverpool midfielder against them.

Lallana injects this Albion squad with a wealth of experience, additional quality, and a calm head in pressure situations; which will be vital if the Seagulls are to gain maximum points on Wednesday.

Despite lifting a Premier League and Champions League trophy, Lallana is no stranger to a relegation battle. When breaking through the ranks at Southampton, he was thrown into a scrap for Championship survival at the end of the 2007/08 season.

At just 19-years-old, he netted a crucial opener against, then table-toppers, West Bromwich Albion in an eventual 1-1 draw, before Southampton secured survival on the final day of the season with a victory against Sheffield United.

What may provide comfort to Brighton’s boss is the versatility that Lallana possesses. Throughout this campaign so far, the former Swansea City manager has reflected flexibility within his tactics and formations, which makes Lallana a prize asset.

Already, the England international has played out-wide when Potter deploys a four-at-the-back formation, and in central midfield when a defensive five has been used.

Throughout his limited performances this season, Lallana has quietly impressed and influenced games. He provided an inch-perfect pass to Danny Welbeck’s first goal for the club in the 2-1 victory against Aston Villa. At the time of writing, that is his only league assist, but there is more to this statistic than meets the eye.

Lallana has averaged 25 passes per match, with 82.7% of those being successfully completed, while averaging one key pass per-match.

It’s also worth noting that Potter has had to meticulously manage his minutes on the pitch due to his injury history and lack of consistent game time with the Premier League holders.

As a result, he has only recorded three 90 minute performances so far this season.

It’s no secret that Lallana’s struggles with injuries have hampered his appearances at both Liverpool, and now at Brighton. As a result of this, it may not be wise to bring him in from the cold directly into a game of this magnitude and intensity.

In Lallana’s absence, players who were positioned on the fringes of the squad have deputised impressively. Alexis Mac Allister started in the narrow defeat away to Manchester City, and in the vital victory at Elland Road against Leeds United.

It may be more beneficial for the team if the Argentine is given the opportunity to maintain his strong form for the Seagulls against Fulham.

The option to use Lallana is however a tantalising one for Potter as the club look to gain their first home league victory of the season.