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COMMENT: Is Adam Lallana playing better than ever?
Adam Lallana has already given Saints plenty of good years, but it is tough to recall the midfielder ever playing in quite such an accomplished fashion as he is this season.
Lallana opened the scoring this afternoon against Swansea, with a goal that was richly deserved not just for his influence here, but in the club’s entire start to the campaign.
The captain has been one of the stand-out performers for Saints in the opening seven matches of the Premier League season, pulling countless strings in midfield, and he was a major factor today in Mauricio Pochettino’s side producing their must fluid attacking display yet this term.
His strike, which came in the 19th minute, was an excellent example of how alert a player the 25-year-old is.
After his cross from the right was poorly cleared by the Swansea defence, he kept himself engaged in the game, made a clever run into the box and was picked out by Steven Davis’ sublime pass, before confidently finishing into the far top corner.
It wasn’t the only moment of class from him, though. Lallana came close to a second goal when he nearly latched onto Rickie Lambert’s cushioned nod-down later in the half.
The ball was just out of reach, but his driving run through the middle and his desire to break through the visitors' back line would have doubtlessly pleased his manager.
Lallana then set up Davis with a clever chipped pass to test Swansea keeper Michel Vorm, while he turned Jordi Amat inside-out with his trademark mesmerising footwork at one stage before flashing a dangerous left-foot delivery right across the face of goal.
Lallana enjoyed a solid campaign last season, as Saints returned to the Premier League, but there was a sense that he was not regularly at his most influential.
The experience of a year in the top-flight seems to have stood him in good stead, though, and with the captain's armband also on his sleeve, Lallana is flourishing.
Asked in the build-up to this game how his form now compared to other times in his career, the skipper said: “I feel I’ve benefited from the season I had last season.
“It was my first season in the Premiership, my first season as captain. I had to learn a lot and learn quickly and I feel I’ve come out of the season a better player and a more mature player and I just want to keep on learning and keep on improving.
“I always want to get better and I’m really happy with how the team are playing, and if I can play and contribute to the team’s success that’s the main thing.”
Lallana’s was by no means the only brilliant performance from a player in a Saints shirt.
Artur Boruc in goal produced the kind of display that would have left the England manager, Roy Hodgson, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Poland.
Swansea, who were vibrant in attack throughout much of this game, could find no way past Saints’ last line of defence, who produced a string of stunning saves.
Boruc has proved a tremendous solution to the goalkeeping troubles that were dogging the club at this time last year, and he will represent a tough obstacle for England, at Wembley, a week on Tuesday.
Steven Davis was also tremendous for the home side, particularly in the first half.
His pass for Lallana’s goal was a delight, while he was also at the heart of much of the good work Saints did going forward.
But it was the captain who scored the decisive goal and will take many of the plaudits, and no one could say that is not deserved.
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