At first I was shocked. Everyone was weren’t they? Rickie Lambert. Who saw that coming?
Now that the initial surprise has subsided, I find myself struggling to think of a transfer in recent times that has made more sense than Liverpool acquiring the services of the Saints’ Scouser.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s the best signing the club have made lately, just that it’s an entirely logical move. I’m not anticipating Lambert banging in 30 goals next season and displacing Daniel Sturridge or Luis Suarez from the first choice eleven, but I genuinely believe that this is an astute bit of business from the club.
Given my positive thoughts on the move, it will come as no shock to you that I have been severely taken aback by the amount of naysayers moaning about this transfer across social media and internet forums. From a purely footballing point of view, signing Southampton’s number 7 strikes me as somewhat of a no-brainer. I’m genuinely dumbfounded by the negativity that it has inspired from some quarters.
Last season Liverpool’s third choice striker was Iago Aspas. He tries his best, bless him, but let’s be honest, summoning the present day Robbie Fowler from the bench against Chelsea would have brought more belief to the Anfield crowd back in April. Aspas isn’t good enough. Liverpool’s current depth up front isn’t good enough either. Not for a campaign that will be spread across four competitions. Daniel Sturridge misses too many games already and Luis Suarez, like it or not, was slowing down at the end of last season even without Champions League games being added to the equation.
That being said, I hadn’t even contemplated the Reds signing another striker during this window. I had assumed that Fabio Borini would fill the void that Aspas’ likely departure will presumably leave in the coming weeks. Finding another centre forward from outside the club looked like tricky business to me. Anyone coming in would have had to not only be better than the back up options already in the squad but also be prepared to sit on the bench quite a lot. You don’t usually find too many of those lads around.
By all accounts, Brendan Rodgers wasn’t thinking about recruiting another striker much either. The club hadn’t been linked to many out and out centre forwards prior to Lambert during this transfer window and reports suggest that his name only cropped up during the recent negotiations with Southampton for Adam Lallana. As a result, when news broke about Lambert’s move back to Liverpool it was an undoubted surprise.
But what a delightful surprise it is when you really think about it.
For the paltry figure of £4m (or two thirds of an Iago Aspas if you prefer), Liverpool will now go into next season with a player who has scored 28 Premier League goals in the last 2 campaigns in their ranks. He contributed 23 goals and assists combined in the league last term for Southampton. He is an England international and no doubt his wages won’t be stretching the club’s bank balance too much either. Compared to what Brendan Rodgers currently has at his disposal, Lambert’s signing will represent an enormous improvement and all at a low cost with little risk involved to boot.
So where will he fit in?
Despite his appearance, Lambert isn’t some one dimensional, hulking target man. Every time I’ve seen him in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons he’s struck me as a far more sophisticated player than that. He has a lovely touch, scores some belting goals with his feet and also chips in with his fair share of clever assists. Crucially, he’s also used to playing in a fluid system with quick, tricky players around him. In other words, he is no last resort to throw on and hump long balls up to like an Andy Carroll. He may well be the man Liverpool turn to if a game is deadlocked late on against a stubborn defensive outfit, but those anticipating Brendan Rodgers imploring his team to ‘go long to the big man’ when Lambert takes to the field will likely be left disappointed.
The Kirkby native represents another option with a different skill set to the forwards currently at the club but, while he will undoubtedly give the side more presence and threat in the penalty area, I would be amazed if he’s used simply as some unrefined battering ram as some are predicting.
Rickie Lambert may not the ‘marquee’ name that some fans wanted to kick off this summer’s transfer activity, but I’m really struggling to see a downside to this move. Yes, he’s 32 years old and he will never be world class but, when you look at the other top clubs in the Premier League, he appears to be a much safer bet than most of our rivals’ back up strikers (excluding the anomaly that is Manchester City, of course).
Would you back any of Yaya Sanogo, Arouna Kone, Harry Kane, Fernando Torres or Danny Welbeck to contribute more than Lambert over a season? Would you back Iago Aspas to? I know I wouldn’t.
And for that reason alone, I’m more than happy with this move.
Welcome back Rickie.