Adam Lallana moving to Klopp's Mersey beat
Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30
It is as if Jurgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside, fired a starting pistol and Adam Lallana has been sprinting ever since.
The most enduring image of Klopp's Liverpool reign will come to be one of the earliest: an exhausted England midfielder falling into the arms of his manager at White Hart Lane in October. High-energy, emotional football was here and Lallana has become one of its most effective exponents.
Lallana's performance on Klopp's Premier League debut created an immediate blueprint for a side who have lost just once in the 10 fixtures since his appointment.
"I remember the team meeting before we set off for the ground on that day," Lallana says. "We listened to the manager and I was so pumped by what he'd said - the vibe, the emotion and the feeling - I walked out wanting the game to start there and then, in that second.
"Jordan Henderson was injured but he travelled with us and said he would have loved to be playing in that game as much as any other.
"It was just the passion of his words that got to us, and the comparison he made of football to normal life, the idea of getting the win and feeling good about what you've achieved.
"He told us he wants us to have that feeling of going home after a game, sitting there and knowing you have done your job. To always feel you can be satisfied with your performance. It's a good feeling to know you've had a good day at work.
"He really is brilliant to listen to. He seems to have an off-the-cuff way about him. You can't imagine him sitting in his office preparing a team talk. He just goes with the flow and it's all genuine. One hundred per cent.
"The way he describes himself as 'normal' is true. There is no ego but an abundance of charisma and an aura. He means what he says. He'll be your mate but not your best mate. He's not going to go for a pint with us after a match, but he'll call you into the office and have a chat if it's needed."
Lallana is an emblem for Klopp's transformation, rediscovering the form that prompted Liverpool to pay £25m to Southampton, their League Cup opponents tonight; reconnecting with the style of another major influence in his career, Mauricio Pochettino.
"He is getting out of me what Mauricio asked of me at Southampton," Lallana said. "The manager sets his team out the way Pochettino does - that is where I can see a similarity. He said to me in our first conversation how he'd seen me play at Southampton. Now the role I'm playing now is more like it was there.
"I don't want to compare managers too much because it's not fair, but the pressing style is similar to what I was used to. The demand is similar - put in the graft. He understands you will make mistakes and not play so well in a game but if you leave blood and sweat on the pitch for him - that is what he likes most.
"When Mauricio came in at Southampton he said 'this is what I demand from every single player. You cannot carry anyone.' That's what the new manager has brought with him here.
"There is no getting away from the fact in my first season here I did not perform as I would have liked.
"Injuries were a part of that but that's not an excuse. We have good stages in our career and stages where you could do better. I'm certainly enjoying my football now."
The trip back to St Mary's, where Lallana was integral to the club's rejuvenation over eight years in the first team, brings trepidation as much as the excitement of a quarter-final. He matured on and off the pitch when helping Southampton out of League One, prepared himself mentally and physically when leading the team out of the Championship, and moved up 'a couple of levels' once Pochettino took over in the Premier League.
"I was a late developer," Lallana says. "While Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott had the 'X-factor' I was just gradually improving. I did not play my first full season until I was 21.
"I was professional but not to the point I should have been in terms of how I ate or how committed I was when I was younger. You have to be 100pc committed and professional from the youngest age or you won't cope. My first season in League One under Alan Pardew was a big year for me. It was a good thing for me to have two seasons in League One and grow.
"When we got to the Championship I was ready. By 24 and the Premier League I was captain and then Pochettino came and that's where I stepped up. I had a great time under him. I still speak to him weekly. We speak as friends rather than about football. He is a good man and I got really close to him.
"There is a respect there. He was a big reason why I'm here, because of what I learnt from him. I always knew he would do well at Spurs. I'm really happy for him."
Given all that he achieved at St Mary's, it still hurts when the circumstances of his departure - misrepresented in Lallana's eyes - overshadow the legacy of those achievements.
"I hope in time it settles down," he says. "Whenever I go home and I'm in a shop or in a petrol station the Southampton fans are brilliant with me. They say thanks, so I'm sure it is just a minority of fans who find their voice when I play there and then a couple more join in. The majority do appreciate everything we achieved because we did a lot.
"I still have a lot of mates who are Southampton fans. My best mate is and he says he doesn't know which end to sit in on Wednesday because he doesn't want to hear people saying stuff.
"My mum doesn't want to go to the game and hear the jeering. That's modern football, but I'd like to think it will change over time."
Should Liverpool maintain their momentum this evening, a chance to redeem two semi-final defeats of last season awaits. They are also just six points from the top of a division Lallana believes is more open than ever.
"The Premier League is becoming more like how it was in the Championship when I was there," Lallana says.
"Leicester and Crystal Palace are capable of beating the top four teams and if you keep consistent and get back to back wins you find yourself not too far off.
"That helps sides who do not have Europe and just the one game a week. If you come off a European game and you find yourself playing Crystal Palace it's going to be one of your hardest games of the season. It shows how competitive and physical this league is."
That said, despite still being a team in 'development' as Klopp puts it, Liverpool are in a prime position to make a statement.
Lallana said: "If you had said we would draw at Arsenal, Spurs and Everton and win away at Chelsea and Manchester City at the start of the season we would have bitten your hand off for that, but I am not sure we would have taken being in this position.
"With the results we have had away we would want to be more than just in touching distance. It's the home form we need to sort out. Obviously the top four is our target."
The message from Lallana is apt. Liverpool need to keep on running. (© Daily Telegraph, London)