After a successful campaign last season, Liverpool have wasted no time in terms of their activity in the transfer market and seemingly want their deals done sooner rather than later. A whole host of names have been linked with the Merseyside club within the last few weeks and a bid has been made and accepted for lifelong Liverpool fan Rickie Lambert.
This may come as a surprise to many people, especially Reds fans considering his age, but Brendan Rodgers may have good reasons for this transfer. Southampton have reportedly agreed the deal worth £4 million, and Lambert could be unveiled as a Liverpool player as early as Monday. However, the question is, will he suit Liverpool Football Club?
It turned out to be an incredible season for the Southampton number 7. The England international has enjoyed a fantastic season, scoring 13 goals and was the focal point of the Saints’ striking options. Along with Rodriguez and Lallana, the trio have worked up a great relationship with one another, similar to that of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling’s at Liverpool. The three strikers helped Southampton to an impressive eighth place finish in the Premier League, and also earned Lambert a place in England’s World Cup squad ahead of the likes of Andy Carroll and Jermaine Defoe.
To top it all off, he has been courted by the team he left as a youth team player 17 years ago. After spells at Blackpool and Bristol Rovers following his departure from Liverpool, Lambert joined Southampton for £1 million in 2009 and has made huge strides, scoring 117 goals in 235 games as well as helping the Saints to two promotions and securing their position in the Premier League.
However, it appears as though a few Southampton players may have played their last game for the club. Lallana and Shaw would seem to be following Lambert out of the club, but what can the 6ft 2” striker offer Liverpool considering they have arguably the best strike force in the league?
“He’s probably never got the recognition for what a really good footballer he is. He is probably seen as a traditional big number nine, a typical British striker, but he’s one of the most accomplished footballers I’ve seen.”
Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for the Saints striker before the two teams met at Anfield last season. As the Liverpool manager mentioned, Lambert is often grouped together with other strikers who fit the mould of a typical tall, front man. Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch, who have funnily enough had spells at Liverpool in the past, are others who are perceived in this manner. What makes Lambert different is that he is much more than a striker whose purpose is to latch onto long passes or win first balls in the air. His movement and touch, as well as his technical aspect of the game, are incredible for a player of his stature; similar to that of Wilfried Bony at Swansea.
His ability to create good partnerships with the players around him, something that is prevalent at Liverpool, enable his team-mates to prosper with the chances he creates. In Lambert’s first season in the Premier League in 2012/2013, he managed five assists to his name, creating a whopping 80 chances at a rate of one every 39 minutes. This season, Lambert doubled his assist tally to a very impressive ten from only 54 chances created, 26 less than in the previous season. You could argue that although he didn’t create as much chances last season, the quality of chances has improved hence; the number of assists.
Lambert also gives Liverpool another option up front, as well as boosting their numbers in strikers. He will know that a first choice role is above his expectations considering the form that Suarez and Sturridge showed last season. However, with the amount of games increasing for the Reds next season due to Champions League commitments, the whole squad will most definitely be needed from game to game, which will give Lambert plenty of time to impress.
Iago Aspas was bought for around £8 million from Celta Vigo last season, and has not made the impact that was expected of him during his first campaign. This could be a combination of a lack of opportunities as well as a lack of form, but maybe Rodgers is looking at players who are proven in the Premier League. With Aspas likely to be sold in the summer, Fabio Borini has made his way back to Anfield after a successful campaign with Sunderland, giving Liverpool another option up front. With Lambert in the mix now, it will give the Reds four strikers who have proven that they can cut it in England’s top division.
Finishing is one of Lambert’s strong suits, in tandem with his link up play, and has proven his goal scoring abilities over the last two seasons; scoring a highly impressive 28 goals. In the 2012/13 season, Lambert burst onto the scene with 15 goals at a rate of one every 209 minutes. With a chance conversion rate of 19%, Lambert unleashed 79 shot on goals with 42 of them on target. This season he managed 13 goals, but the partnership between him, Rodriguez and Lallana allowed the goals to be shared among them which will also be the case at Liverpool.
Lambert will also gives Liverpool a “Plan B” going forward in future. At times, the Reds came unstuck against several teams who were able to suss out their attacking play; their 2-0 loss to Chelsea at Anfield which heavily dented their title chances springs to mind. Lambert would give a completely different option to Suarez and Sturridge in that his height, strength, skill and vision to find players in and around the box will give Liverpool a new dimension. Having scored 34 penalties out of 34 for Southampton, he’s not too bad from 12 yards either.
Unfortunately, the chances of Lambert taking penalties and free kicks will be reduced at Liverpool with Gerrard and Suarez specialising in these areas. This could be a hindrance to his goal tally as he’s scored 10 of his 28 goals from penalties and direct free kicks in the last two season. The alternative point of view is that he’ll get more opportunities in open play with Liverpool’s creativity blossoming over the last 18 months. The stats in the cover image above show how much Lambert relies on set play goals with 50% of his Premier League goals coming from some sort of set piece.
People may mention his age and stature and straight away dismiss Lambert from being a success at Liverpool, but he offers much more than meets the eye. He is a proven goal scorer in the league, fantastic on the ball, and gives Liverpool a second option if they want to change their approach to a game. At £4 million, I will go as far as to say that it is a bargain purchase, and a shrewd one at that for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool.