Rickie Lambert: Good Enough to Start for England Against Moldova?

Sam JohnsonContributor IIISeptember 6, 2013

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  Rickie Lambert of England arrives for a training session at St Georges Park on September 3, 2013 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Southampton's Rickie Lambert will lead the line for England against Moldova today in their important Group H World Cup qualifier at Wembley Stadium. 

A year has passed since England comfortably beat Moldova 5-0 at the Zimbru Stadium in Chisinau, thanks to goals from Frank Lampard, Jermaine Defoe, James Milner and Leighton Baines.

With plenty of goals hitting the back of the net during their previous encounter, Lambert should relish the chance of adding to his tally following a debut goal with his first touch against Scotland last month.

Now that Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge have withdrawn through injury, England manager Roy Hodgson has announced that Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott will assist Rickie Lambert from the flanks.

While there may be a lack of competition for places right now, thus giving the opportunity for so-called fringe players to shine, should Southampton's main striker start for England in their crucial qualifying clash against Moldova?

The statistics would seem to suggest so.

Lambert is currently the 10th best striker in the Premier League based off Squawka's Performance Score (56), and the third best English striker behind Danny Welbeck (58) and Sturridge (71) respectively.

Three games into the new season and Lambert has fired nine shots towards goal with an accuracy of 56 percent—only Manchester City's Edin Dzeko has attempted more shots (10).

When it comes to playing as the lone striker for England, there's a constant pressure and burden to score a vast number of goals game after game. But the nation will almost certainly rally behind a striker who can link up intelligently with willing runners from midfield, thus aiding in the team's overall quest for goals.

In terms of Englishmen, only Cardiff City's Fraizer Campbell (9) has made more successful headers than Rickie Lambert (7) in the Premier League this season.

While the number is fairly low, Mauricio Pochettino is developing an intense possession system at Southampton based around interchanging of positions throughout the final third, which in turn effectively limits the opportunity for Lambert to lead the line as stereotypical target man.

However, given the right service via accurate crosses from the flanks, Lambert is fully capable of winning headed flick-ons, while remaining a constant aerial threat in the opposition's penalty area—as Scotland will surely attest.

He may be 31 years old, and next year's World Cup in Brazil may be his last hope of ever reaching a major international tournament, but Lambert is grabbing the opportunities that are coming his way.

His debut goal against Scotland put a smile on the nation's faces, and thanks to a bit of luck at the expense of his teammates—injuries to Sturridge and Rooney—the ex-Bristol Rovers striker has another chance to shine; this time when it really matters.

Much has been said about England's new rags-to-riches football hero; a fairytale moment to inspire all beetroot factory workers across the land.

Rickie Lambert, it's time to don the white shirt emblazoned with the three famous lions. Your country needs you.

Team and player football stats from Squawka.com