Each season the English Premier League throws new surprises at our bleeding Sky Sports engraved eyes, but no more so unexpected, and unpolished, as that of Liverpool’s Charlie Adam.
From the dreary days of Rangers’ reserve matches, the enthralling rollercoaster ride at Blackpool, to the right here and now of the hottest playmaker this side of Steven Gerhard’s latest injunction; stands Charlie Adam. Beneath that overgrown stubble and hatchet trimmed haircut, lies a footballing brain thriving under the pressure of English football’s Premier League, and all it has to offer.
The Dundonian-turned-Glaswegian- turned-scouser, has disproved critics and fans alike with his excellent form this season, contributing two goals and six assists – the last two against Manchester City, and Chelsea- to help his club to a respectable 6th spot as they reach the half way mark in the season.
Adam’s signing, at first, raised a few eyebrows when Kenny Dalglish – a man many still seem unsure over – bought him for around £7mil from recently relegatedBlackpool. On the face of it all, this looked like a gamble; Dalglish had been out of the management game for over a decade and to bring in a gutsy playmaker from a relegated side just wasn’t something a top four or top six side would do.
Although Adam had his fans, he was very rarely regarded as anything more than a bottom half of the table playmaker. He played the ‘Hollywood ball’ more often than he should and often got caught too far up the field when trying to defend. For Blackpool it was acceptable because of the goals he provided, despite the clubs constant struggle throughout the season, and eventual relegation.
He was comfortable at the club, he had his place, and he’d reached his potential.
Adam joined Liverpool as part of a new wave of change under Dalglish, alongside an entirely new arsenal of attacking talent such as Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson; all three dwarfing the Scot’s transfer fee and initial chances of starting for the squad.
He was initially brought in as cover for midfield – particularly Gerrard and his inevitably injuries – yet Adam has managed to find a working relationship with the industrial nature of Lucas Levia and harmonized passing game of Jordan Henderson in the absence of the aforementioned England captain.
A player determined to prove his worth to the historic club, Adam has played like a man possessed for the Reds this season. In the past, particularly during his time in Scotland, the playmaker often looked as though he was a little too hasty and impatient to find the right pass.
Through balls were over hit, unnecessary shoots from odd angles and just a general nuisance to any manager that enjoyed holding on to the ball and possession. Yet Lady Fortune seems to have shined upon him of late, and things seem to have changed for him at Liverpool. His transformation from faltering youngster with a little too much awe for gung-ho to Merseyside hero, seems complete.
Perhaps it’s because he’s walked in to a squad that already knows how to accommodate a ‘greedy’ playmaker, in the sense that his – like Gerrard’s – game depends on him taking the imitative in an attacking play, whether that be a shot or an elaborate through ball. Where the pass may have been a little over hit, or the shot a little too selfish in the past, for a club so desperate to make chances count – such as Blackpool – he now finds himself blossoming within a Liverpool side who’s forwards are that little bit faster and more technically adapt at collecting the ball, and encourage him to take such chances.
Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that alongside Lucas providing cover for the two centre backs, Dalglish has done well to work on the tactical awareness of Downing and Kuyt and encourage them to follow their full back runners as they move up the field. This allows Liverpool to exert a little more dominance on the wings and force sides to move inside when looking for a way to use their fullbacks to better effect. It also allows Henderson and Lucas to defend more effectively while having to cover much less area, and Adam slightly more freedom in the middle of the park to make those trademark through balls up towards Suarez.
Against Chelsea(last week) in particular,Liverpool were excellent at finding space in midfield and getting the ball up to Suarez very quickly. Although this was in part due to Villas Boas’ refusal to play a deep defensive line, it was also down to the ability of Henderson and Lucas to mop up the Chelsea attacks, and get the ball to Adam who could in turn play Suarez in to run and exploit the Blues defence.
Another large proportion of Adam’s contribution to the team comes from his ability at set pieces. Having establishing himself as the main corner and free-kick taker for the team fairly early on in his Liverpool career, his exquisite deliveries have given Dalglish another option in attack, and another headache for the opposition to deal with. It also helps coagulate the effect of Dalglish’s famous plan B, in Andy Carroll; Who’s entire game depends on the right kind of through ball or cross.
There is, however, another midfield who shares a similar arsenal of tricks and skills to that of Charlie Adam and he just happens to be the club captain and icon. Whether Dalglish can crowbar them both in to the side, or whether he will drop an in-form Adam for the Merseyside boy wonder is a headache waiting to happen.
Until the time comes were Gerrard is fit and able to demand that spot back from his Scottish colleague, Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool fans alike can rest in peace knowing that there’s at least one happy prim donna playmaker keeping things ticking along at Anfield.
You can follow Stefan Bienkowski on Twitter @SBienkowski.