Adam Lallana‘s injury blow that will see him out for up to six weeks could end up being a hindrance to Liverpool getting off to the kind of start that a potential title contender will need this season.
Lallana suffered a knee injury in training while Liverpool was on tour in the United States and the expected recovery time is around six weeks, which by my count would have him out for a minimum of the club’s first three matches.
Three matches may not seem like a major problem for a top flight club like Liverpool to endure, but Lallana is a quality attacking player and two of their first three opponents are Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Manchester City won the Barclays Premier League last season and should absolutely be in contention to repeat with the amount of quality they have from top to bottom. Tottenham is not as strong a side as City is, but they still possess plenty of quality to trouble Liverpool on a given day. Tottenham is also fighting to make the top four in order to secure a place in the UEFA Champions League, so the motivation to defeat one of the expected contenders is certainly there.
One last thing to mention in regards to these two early Liverpool opponents: both of these games are on the road at the Etihad Stadium and White Hart Lane, respectively. Last year, Liverpool conceded almost double the amount of goals on the road as they did at home. The signing of Dejan Lovren from Southampton should help shore up the defense a bit, but that aspect of play might not be where Liverpool struggles.
After the transfer of Luis Suarez, questions have been raised about who will shoulder the load he has left behind and the signing of Lallana, a creative winger and/or midfielder, was supposed to help ease the burden a bit. Lallana scored 11 goals and tallied six assists in all contests for an upstart Southampton team that finished eighth last season.
With Lallana’s absence, manager Brendan Rodgers might be forced to field a more defensive unit than he would usually like. This injury also does not afford Lallana or Rodgers time to successfully acclimate into the squad, so Rodgers can find the optimal lineup for his system. After the season-opener against Southampton, Rodgers and his Liverpool squad may be looking for the draw.
Liverpool still possesses a large number of players with pace and creativity on the attack like Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and new signing Lazar Marković, but replacing Suarez’s production quickly is almost impossible. Lallana’s absence makes that task even tougher, but if Liverpool can survive the early slate of tough games, then they might have the mettle needed to battle for a league title in the spring.
However, a slow start could put Liverpool behind the eight-ball and make the title quest an uphill battle much earlier than they would like.