Milner? Lallana Makes More Sense...

If you want an attacking player blessed with a defensive mindset, you should look no further than Adam Lallana. He's like James Milner but better, says Ali Tweedale...

Last Updated: 09/10/13 at 08:55 Post Comment

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While Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all miss out on the upcoming internationals due to injury, another player recently off the conveyor belt at Southampton's incredible academy will have a week-long break from football for other reasons. Adam Lallana has not shot to fame quite like his former youth team colleagues Bale and Walcott, with his rise to Premier League football slower simply because he remained at St Mary's.

But eight years since signing a professional contract and seven years after Walcott made his international debut, Lallana is now an established Premier League player and with Rickie Lambert now a regular member of the England set-up, pace has been gathering to calls for Southampton's captain to be given a chance at international level.

Mauricio Pochettino's presence has seen talent flood into Saints' squad from all over Europe but an English core has remained, of which Lallana is key. In a squad boasting no fewer than nine midfielders who have featured already this season as well as summer signing Pablo Osvaldo, who has been utilised in the number 10 role that Lallana is also capable of occupying, the Englishman's versatility has been of use, but that is far from the only reason that he has maintained his position in the team.

A technically gifted and hard-working midfielder, Lallana fits the bill to be a hit with England fans. A player who runs themselves into the ground to make a challenge but is also a threat going forwards is exactly the type of player people in this country love. And that Lallana does just that means he is not only able to play in Pochettino's high-pressing Southampton side, but thrives in it. In 37 Premier League appearances since the start of last season, Lallana has made a combined total of 157 tackles and interceptions (a rate of 4.2 per game), which is more than any other player to play in such an advanced position.

Roy Hodgson often receives a great deal of criticism for selecting James Milner as he is too defensive-minded a midfielder to be playing out wide, but in the right system a winger helping out off the ball can be extremely useful. While Milner isn't one to press the ball high, Lallana has proven adept at doing so, and as a result has won possession in the attacking third of the pitch on more occasions (8) than any other player in the Premier League this season. It is predictably unadventurous of a Hodgson-led side to sit back and aim to make themselves as difficult to break down as possible, so Lallana might not be quite so suited in this regard to the England team, but that he is doing so well under Pochettino highlights a useful and intelligent adaptability to his game.

But Lallana should not by any means be considered a defensive player. In those 37 matches over the past two seasons, Lallana has a combined tally of 11 goals and assists (which is, by the way, four greater than Milner for a team that has scored 27 fewer goals). And if the main criticism of England in recent years is that players are too often picked on reputation rather than form, that again applies when it comes to Southampton's midfielder, who has two assists and a goal in his last three appearances but has yet to have that recognised.

While Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend are wholly different players to Lallana, they have both managed to catch the eye of Hodgson with exciting performances for their respective clubs. But neither is established sufficiently to really convince anyone that they should be regulars in the England squad, and with Milner currently Manchester City's second-worst-performing player according to WhoScored's statistical rating system (ahead only of the heavily criticised and out-of-sorts Joe Hart), form alone isn't the deciding factor for Hodgson.

On current form, it will only be a matter of time until Lallana manages to establish himself enough as a Premier League stalwart to be worthy of a deserved chance at international level.

Alistair Tweedale - follow him on Twitter here

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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