I find international breaks are usually a good time to take a step back from things going on with Liverpool and look at things objectively for a week or so.
The month of September and the beginning of October was a tough time, with defeats to Aston Villa, West Ham and FC Basel, and a once in a lifetime last minute strike from Phil Jagielka that just proved things were not going our way.
But I am confident things will only get better after the international break, as we have two players coming back to full fitness that I reckon have all the attributes to create a partnership the closest thing to Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres in their prime – Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge.
Lallana’s performances against Middlesbrough, Everton and West Brom have seen me jump on the bandwagon.
Initially I was concerned he may be too lightweight and not have the character required to succeed at a top club, but his balance, skill and work-rate have won me over straight away.
With all the excitement around the signing of Mario Balotelli towards the end of the transfer window, Lallana’s £25million move from Southampton was almost forgotten, given he got injured during pre-season.
Let us not forget this is a player who made it into the PFA Team of the season last year, having scored nine goals and provided four assists.
When you compare Lallana to the other main Premier League playmakers last season, his stats prove he is capable of playing at the top level. And the good news for Liverpool, is that Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho were also in and amongst the seven top playmakers of last season.
Lallana managed more goals than Coutinho, Juan Mata, Mesut Ozil, David Silva and Oscar last season, and sits level on nine with Raheem Sterling.
Assists and key passes are area’s he look to improve, with the England man joint fifth on both lists, with four assists and an average of 1.9 key passes a game – David Silva is the clear winner in this category with a superb average of 3.2.
Lallana compares well in the tackling and shot accuracy departments however, with his work rate there for all to see so far.
And bare in mind, these statistics come from when Lallana was playing in a far inferior team last season, with the greatest of respects to Southampton.
What excites me is the prospect of Lallana linking up with Sturridge for the first time. The pair are good friends off the pitch from their time with England, and both boast very good game intelligence. The assist Lallana provided for Sturridge in the international friendly against Denmark in March was a taster of what the pair can produce.
Mario Balotelli has been a disappointment as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 system with his lack of runs in behind the defence the main cause for concern.
The Italian should be used as a partner for Sturridge in the 4-4-2 diamond system in my opinion, whilst I would like to see Lallana given the free role behind Sturridge with Sterling and Coutinho either side in a 4-2-3-1.
Those three players are all more than capable of interchanging positions, with all comfortable on either flank or in that coveted number 10 role.
Brendan Rodgers has always spoken of wanting players who are adaptable to different systems at any point in a match, and I think this line up and formation gives us the chance of being at our most fluid.
A lot will depend on Lallana and his ability to link up with Sturridge, who has been sorely missed.
As long as Roy Hodgson doesn’t break Lallana during this international period, I think these two have all the attributes to develop a top understanding, similar to the one we saw with Gerrard and Fernando Torres between 2007 and 2010.
Sturridge has the pace to run in behind, the skill to produce moments of magic the way the Spaniard did, and the game intelligence to link up with those around him – he provided seven assists last season.
And bare in mind, Sturridge boasts a better goal record than Torres did for the Reds in his prime. He managed 24 goals last season, and boasts a superb record of 36 in 52 appearances over the course of his Liverpool career.
Lallana does not boast the power and driving runs that Gerrard did during his prime of playing just behind the main striker.
But he does offer both feet and plenty of trickery – something that may well come in useful when teams decide to park the bus.
His goal against West Brom Albion last weekend was a classic example of what he can offer in those tight situations, whilst the movement of Sturridge ahead of him and the quality of players such as Sterling, Coutinho, Henderson and Gerrard around him will only see him flourish further.
Everything is in place for Lallana and Sturridge to take their games to the next level. Both are at the right age and have plenty of time ahead of them to develop an understanding at both club and international level. Both have a manager who has total faith in them and the desire to improve them as players, and both have top creative talent supporting them. And most importantly, both have the ability and a system designed to bring the best out of one another.
Let’s just hope Lallana makes it back from international duty in one piece so we can see the potential partnership in action as early as next weekend…