Our series of articles analysing the chief protagonists from the three promoted clubs has already brought Rickie Lambert and Jobi McAnuff under the spotlight earlier this week. Today, it’s the turn of Southampton’s wing wizard Adam Lallana who, alongside Lambert, was one of only two Saints players to feature in the npower Championship Team of the Season for 2011/12:
As a youngster, Lallana was a member of the Bournemouth Centre of Excellence, where his talents were spotted by a member of the Southampton Academy and, as a result, he joined the club as a 12-year-old. The midfielder was a key component of the Saints’ FA Youth Cup squads that reached the final and semi-final respectively before he stepped up to the first-team in 2006.
The first couple of seasons were a struggle for Lallana; managing just six league appearances and a single goal, he was farmed out to Bournemouth on loan for a month, where he featured three times before returning to St Mary’s. In 2008-09, however, he finally nailed down a regular role, scoring once and providing five assist in 40 appearances. The following season, however, Lallana’s attacking talents really came to the fore – 15 goals and three assists in 44 league games were indicative of his threat, while eight goals and 11 assists in 2010/11 helped the Saints win promotion from League One. Last term saw Lallana produce double figures for both goals and assists for the first time in his burgeoning career (10 and 11 respectively) as Nigel Adkins’ side sealed their return to the top-flight by finishing a point behind Reading in second place.
Adkins’ attack-minded 4-4-2 helped Southampton rack up 85 goals last term – the most of the three promoted clubs – and Lallana’s marauding left flank raids are bound to catch the attention of many a Fantasy manager, bearing in mind he played a part in 24% of his side’s goals in 2011/12, second only to Rickie Lambert.
Priced at 6.0 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and a mere 4.9 in the Sky Sports game and with a fair share of both corners and free-kicks, the 24-year-old looks an enticing proposition, though the side’s recent formations in the pre-season friendlies may give us some cause for consternation. Adkins has trialled 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3 systems over the Saints’ three full matches thus far and shifted Lallana into a deeper central role in the midfield three. After yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Ajax, Adkins admitted his side are likely to change tactics over the course of next season and will be less “gung-ho” in their approach in the Premier League – an indication, perhaps, that the 4-4-2 will be rolled out mainly at St Mary’s as the promoted club look to tighten up at the back on their travels.
Certainly, the Saints’ horrendous opening schedule is likely enough to deter us from initially investing in their attacking assets – with showdowns against City, United and Arsenal in the first four Gameweeks, they could barely ask for a more difficult start to their season. After that, though, the fixture list is a little kinder and could sway plenty to take a punt – home clashes against Villa and Fulham and a trip to West Ham are the type of matches their attacking approach should prosper in and if Adkins’ men are follow in the footsteps of last year’s promoted clubs and stay afloat, Lallana will surely be crucial to their cause.
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