Few would have predicted Adam Lallana to be playing as a holding midfielder this season.
Lallana has spent the majority of his career as an attacking playmaker, firstly with Southampton and then at Liverpool where he won the Premier League and the Champions League with Jurgen Klopp.
He has relied on his work rate, his nimble footwork in tight spaces and his ability to spot and execute that killer pass a spilt second before anyone else.
In that position, Lallana at his best was a lethal weapon to have. Mauricio Pochettino saw it and utilised his skills perfectly at Southampton and Klopp certainly did too after Lallana left the south coast for Anfield in 2014 for £25m.
Lallana’s main problem and chief regret at Liverpool was his long injury record that prevented him from achieving the time on the pitch his talents deserved.
Nevertheless Lallana was a hugely respected figure at Anfield and Klopp hailed the 33-year-old was one of the most influential players during his highly successful stay despite his lack of game time.
Lallana’s time on Merseyside ended in 2020 after 128 appearances and 18 goals from his six seasons . He left with two of the most prized club medals in football safely stashed and also achieved 34 England caps.
Despite his injury issues, Premier League teams were keen to take Lallana but it was Brighton’s offer of a three year deal and Graham Potter’s style of play that persuaded him to the Amex Stadium.
A free transfer allowed Brighton to make Lallana one of the higher earners but Albion were buying more than a player. Potter wanted a leader on the pitch but also a positive influence to the group and around the training.
Lallana had his frustrating injury issues once more last season but his moments of experience and class in vital moments proved key to Albion securing a fifth consecutive season in the top flight.
There are few more dedicated than Lallana and both player and club are now seeing the benefits of a full pre-season and fully fit player albeit in an unfamiliar role.
The former England man has played much deeper this season and has allowed Potter’s team to build-up attacks from the base of the midfield. Lallana always offers an out ball for his defenders and who is more reliable to protect the ball and start the attack.
“You know who the Brighton holding midfielder is,” asked Man City boss Pep Guardiola after their 4-1 win last Saturday.
“It’s Lallana, Adam Lallana,” he said answering his own question. “And that causes problems for teams. Brighton build from Lallana. He can go left and right and start attacks, very good, very good,” enthused Guardiola.
Credit to Potter for altering his role but credit too to Lallana for adapting his game. “The way Graham set us up was brave,” said Lallana after the City loss.
“It shows great courage and the lads tried to enforce it. It didn’t work at times. We can be better in the first half. We are too good to make those mistakes. But to react how we did and not feel sorry for ourselves was important. If we had it would have been six or seven. We got at them and eventually got the goal but just too late.
I’m loving playing, especially against players like that. Playing on the front foot is exactly how I see the game. I love working with the group we have. A great dressing room with a bunch of selfless lads that want to fight for each other. Having that is what it is all about.
“Being part of that is special and I’m enjoying my football. I feel like I have a new lease of life.”