In just about every sense – his age, his price, his function on the pitch (often harshly referred to as a ‘carthorse’), and his rather humble background up until he became an established Premier League and England international striker – he is not what you would expect in an LFC summer signing.
And you know what? That’s really encouraging.
Brendan Rodgers, in his second season in charge, turned a flagging footballing giant into a dynamic and dangerous dark horse for the title. The team spirit and attacking play at Anfield was a joy to behold in 2013/14.
One problem, however: the above earns you little more than golf applause and perhaps the occasional gong at a relatively-irrelevant awards ceremony.
The 2013/14 season will forever be remembered by Liverpool as the year they had one hand on a first league title in 24 years only to fall away in agonising fashion at the death.
Rodgers stuck to his philosophical guns last season, but it appears that the failure to see through their lead at the top of the table has compelled him to look into adding more, contrasting options to the fantastic style of play we can call his ‘Plan A’.
One thing we know Lambert will provide is goals. Some will predict that the step up from mid-table Southampton to Champions League football and battling for the top four will harm him, but this is a man who has progressively advanced through every level of the game and passed with flying colours. He will be used to people assuming he has gone up a step too far.
Even as a second- or third-choice striker, Lambert is capable of making the most of his pitch time and making an impact. Not only that, but if he does mostly appear in the latter stages of games, this is where his acquisition could prove the most astute.
How often did we see Liverpool surge into a two- or three-goal lead last season only to very nearly blow it in the second half? Crystal Palace, of course, was the heart-wrenching crescendo of this unaddressed weakness.
A man with Lambert’s work-rate, upper-body strength and ability to nick a goal even when his side aren’t firing on all cylinders could very well be just the tonic for the Rodgers blitzkrieg when it runs out of steam and starts to leave the door open for opponents to reel them in.
Of course, the biggest reason Liverpool fans are nervous about the Lambert deal – and opposing fans are getting ready to point and laugh – is the nasty taste left in Reds’ mouths by Andy Carroll’s £35million flop a few years back.
But let us dismiss that comparison right off the bat. Not only is £4million a much smaller investment, but for me Carroll and Lambert are hardly alike, other than both being strikers.
Liverpool had to try and play into Carroll’s tendencies, which didn’t work. Lambert however will work, move and adapt to get the most out of the considerable service his new team-mates can offer.
Of course, Lambert - who came through the youth system at Anfield - is also joining his beloved side, rather than leaving it. And the impressive progress, heavy pressing and attractive attacking play at St Mary’s is very similar to what Rickie can expect at his new side – albeit at another step up in level, with no disrespect intended to the fine progress Saints have made in recent years.
In fact, don’t be surprised if the changes going on this summer at the South Coast club end up with one or two more players heading to Merseyside. We already know Liverpool are keen on Adam Lallana, and though the latest whispers suggest talks are on the rocks, it could still happen.
If so, Rodgers will be gaining another fantastically talented attacking midfielder, and one who could really take some of the pressure off the shoulders of Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen. They will all focus on steering the ship while Lallana is flanked by the likes of Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in their assault of the opposing goal.
I understand why most LFC fans will not rest easy until the club sign at least one marquee player, the type of big name who'll arrive to a lot more fanfare than Lambert did on Monday. But I can assure those fans that it is not a bad thing at all that Rodgers realises there is more to bringing in new players than splashing the cash on ‘big names’.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rickie Lambert
- Brendan Rodgers