On a Sunday afternoon, God was playing shadow puppet with the sun. Spring, monsoon, autumn and winter rolled into 90 minutes. She blew 40-miles-per-hour raspberries at Anfield, corner flags lurched backwards.
The wind landed the first blow as early as the eight minute. The ball from a corner tucked into the far post, beyond an impeded and incensed Alisson. The Liverpool goalkeeper was the meat in a Cork and Tarkowski sandwich (get your mind out of the gutter). As the narrative would have it, Alisson was the one who ended up being booked due to his vocal protestations. It seemed a little too similar to 2008-2009. But it wasn’t; the Liverpool players, like Jason and the Argonauts, battened down the hatches and sailed against the rogue winds.
Deucalion (the son of Prometheus) once uttered, Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum, Et documenta damus qua simus origine nati before he threw stones over his shoulder to create mankind. This is the ancient Greek metaphor for the apathy Gods have reserved for us, not caring where our fates fall. We were resigned to be victims of circumstance. Only heroes with hearts big enough to oppose and then to say “Not having any of that, mate” to their fates can break the habit. It is only then that divinity stirs within the protagonist.
This Liverpool team is lined with protagonists, and when they fell behind, they bared their collective soul. As hail turned to sleet, and sleet to pelting rain, Adam Lallana demanded his right on the ball. Those in the stands could sense a different kind of electrical discharge. Like iron fillings that form concentric lines around a bar magnet, the players’ mental and positional compasses were magnetized. Their effort pointed to their true North, and the centre of it all was the Liverpool number 20. As he upped the tempo, roars coming down from the stands started mingling with rain
Like the taste of the ocean is found in a droplet of rain, the unlikely Adam Lallana was carrying the pressing essence of Liverpool’s objective optimism, defying general consensus.
Adam Lallana is a crock. He’s been out for the majority of the last two seasons. His irregularity making him look as out-of-sync as a Jerry Lewis comedy sketch called ‘’The Bellboy.’’ In one scene, Jerry Lewis–playing the Bellboy—doesn’t know which of the phones in the reception is ringing, just like a flummoxed Adam Lallana often doesn’t know which pass to play; dallying with the ball, eventually tripping on his own wires, and falling down like a flea-market mannequin. Prior to kick-off, Liverpool Twitter was in a state of furore seeing Adam’s name on the team sheet.
As a society, we actively pursue to experience life in our boxer shorts from the comfort of our armchairs. We can (work, socialise, get entertained and) protest in our underwear without the pressing need for any semblance of empathy for the men in the arena. This obsessive servility to cynicism speaks to a deep, ingrained rejection of hope in fellow men and ourselves.
Philosopher Thoreau tells us: “Man is a slave and prisoner of his own opinion. Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared to our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that is which determines, or rather indicates his fate.” Folk singer Bob Marley calls for this selfsame “emancipation” in “Redemption Song”. In this context, Adam Lallana did more than merely emancipate himself from the yolk of public opinion.
What you saw on Sunday was a different Adam Lallana. This is the player, who, in Jurgen Klopp’s early Liverpool days, put the gegen in the gegenpress (counter-attack).
The tell-tale difference was the freedom the Liverpool no.20 facilitated for a returning Roberto Firmino. Set free from his responsibilities, the Brazilian operated with the fluent abandon of a smooth-talking troubadour, whispering sweet nothings into the ears of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane. Liverpool’s Romeo looked like he was back, strumming. Such was the noticeable elevation, the Bobby Firmino song was sung more often than it had ever been around Anfield in the course of one match.
The path to this one match has been arduous. Adam Lallana, in total, has missed 67 games and 372 days through groin, hamstring, thigh, calf and knee complications since 2015. You and I need to empathise that it is defeating enough when your body can’t go the distance that your mind wills it to: when a hamstring snaps, or a tendon is torn in action. But to surpass that cycle of injury, rehabilitation, and second-guessing your limits, to put your body on the line again for the benefit of the team, to own that responsibility and to make it your calling card, despite the overbearing risks; that is an act of ego-death.
Thoreau adds: “Hippocrates has even left directions on how we should cut our nails, so that it is neither too long or too short. Undoubtedly, the very tedium and ennui which have exhausted the need for wonder, hope or imagination of life are as old as Adam.” But, he says, that an earnest man’s capacity to surprise will never be measured. And Adam Lallana is nothing if he’s not earnest.
Anthropologist Franz Boas noted that Eskimos do really have 50 words for snow. It’s not a gimmick as much it is an evidence of wonder and the liberty of expression in the face of mere being. Similarly, there are as many ways of winning a ball. Watching Adam Lallana’s outrageously inventive retrieval out on the deep left of Liverpool’s touchline was a lot like falling in love again. A Burnley throw-in would have set off another counter, but a back-facing between-the-legs dummy won the ball and the moment.
It wasn’t just a flash in the pan. It happened time and again. Mid-flight, Adam blocked a deep cross from Burnley’s right-back, Bardsley. He came in like a wrecking ball to win a header versus Ashley Westwood. He powered through like an overwound lawnmower through the middle, trimming a potential Burnley counter-attack at the nip. He floated a crossfield ball to Mo Salah which resulted in the first Roberto Firmino goal through a clever bit of interplay down the right between the Egyptian and Gini Wijnaldum.
The second goal was directly down to Adam Lallana’s flying right heel coming between an attempted clearance at the edge of the Burnley box. He threw himself at the ball, back to goal, an angle of 20 degrees from being completely horizontal. The loose ball found itself back in the box, Mo Salah found himself being levelled by a challenge from Charlie Taylor, and Sadio Mane found the back of the net with a righteous side-foot spank. Looking on, Lallana punched the air with just as much glee as Mane, the goalscorer. Living vicariously through Lallana, Jurgen Klopp chest-thumped his assistant manager on the touchline. All of this was in the first half alone. In the second half, Liverpool went on to score two more goals (Firmino and Mane) while Burnley scored one more. The match ended 4-2 for the home team.
“He’s got skill on the ball, but he’s an aggressive boy. On counter-press situations he is a game-changer. It didn’t look promising (for the second goal) until Adam jumped to block (the clearance at the edge of the box).”–Jurgen Klopp, post-match press conference, Liverpool vs Burnley.
Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” was composed to evoke a sense of the seasons in the listener. The composition was the earliest and most detailed examples of program music, which is music with a time-bound, story-bound narrative. The work has historically allowed for rhythmic gymnastics to the point that the instruments are played differently than what the seasoned listener might expect. It remains a testament to the contest of harmony and aspiration–either in medleys or single movements, the protagonist’s role keeps changing through the seasons. The music, therefore, lends itself to life and the performing arts.
Watching this match was a lot like seeing Vivaldi’s four-concerti grossi unfold, but backwards. It went from the winter of Adam Lallana’s and Liverpool’s fortunes to their spring. The “Four Seasons” articulated through classical music, among many things, the sound of hunting parties from both the hunters’ and the prey’s point of view. Adam Lallana, like Italian cellist Antonio Janigro, depicted the fury of the chase and the tempo with utmost urgency and poise.
“Nobody gets rid of us if we play as we played today. We had the perfect mixture of fighting the circumstance and playing football (for the fun of it).”–Jurgen klopp, post-match press conference, Liverpool 4 – Burnley 2.
“Here I will (try to) convey how much this performance meant to me, and might mean to you, as well. The soloists phrase their lyricism beautifully, and the music is fast, precise and true to life, the intonation is correct, the continuous nature of it, appropriate. This version relates perfectly with the Soloists; the entire performance is impregnated with the spirit of Janigro’s perfectionism, leaving the music and its soul fully exposed. It had been for a long time the only performance I could listen to.” These are musicologist Ivan Supek’s lines appraising Antonio Janigro’s “I Solisti di Zagreb” version of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, a version which is widely deemed to be unsurpassed.
As a playmaker, the shift Lallana puts in goes beyond his call of duty. Like him, Janigro was both a soloist and a fastidious facilitator for his peers. He participated intensely with his fellow musicians in the creative process, which was largely unheard of at the time. This made his version of “Four Seasons” resounding, airy and atmospheric.
I hope this performance right before meeting Bayern at the Allianz Arena means just as much to our season.