Forget the Cost and Name, Rickie Lambert Is a Good Transfer Target for Liverpool

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2014


Rickie Lambert to Liverpool: It doesn't have the ring of exotic, expensive, Champions League-quality names to it which Reds fans were hoping to hear for their first signing of the summer, but it does have a number of people happy over the move.

Not all, though. As has been the case with many Liverpool transfers over the past two seasons, the addition of Southampton striker Lambert—confirmed by Liverpool FC's official website on Monday morning—had initially split the camp somewhat.

While a section believes him to be a wise move for a relatively cheap, Plan-B attacking option, others think it a level or two lower than the Reds should be aiming, the squad having finished second in the Premier League this season.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14:  Rickie Lambert of England in action during the International Friendly match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium on August 14, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The truth is somewhere in the middle as usual.

Lambert isn't a "Plan B," anyway. Yes, he's taller and better in the air than the current forwards, but he's not merely being brought in to act as a battering ram when teams "do a Chelsea," as the social media scene puts itin other words, to allow the team to go direct when defences pack out the Anfield penalty area.

The England international, part of the World Cup squad for this summer, is a technically proficient player, good at linking play in the final third with one-touch passing and, yes, chesting or heading the ball on. He also, however, is adept at playing much deeper, dropping out of the forward line to create spaces through the centre and directing passes in toward the ensuing runners.

With the likes of Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge having great pace as well as movement, there should be plenty of opportunity for the Saints man to excel in that role.

Lambert, second player from left, and Sturridge, far right, are both in England's World Cup squad
Lambert, second player from left, and Sturridge, far right, are both in England's World Cup squadRui Vieira/Associated Press

In fact, it's not unlike that which Sturridge himself plays now. He's a man to lead the line and likes to get into the area, but he also frequently drops into the channels or deeper centrally to receive the ball, create space and turn to face goal with the ball at his feet.

Lambert is in fact another forward of a similar nature to Sturridge, though without of course the same prowess in the penalty area or natural athletic attributes.

Boss Brendan Rodgers also alludes to his technical qualities, as per

I've seen Rickie Lambert over the years and he's one of those players that probably never got the recognition for what a really good footballer he is. He was probably seen as the traditional big No.9, a British striker that is good in the air. But he's one of the most accomplished footballers I've seen. Look at his touch, look at the level of his goals, the different types of goals he has scored over his career, and he's a specialist on penalties as well. I think he is a terrific footballer and any team he plays against, he's always a handful.

The fee, said to be around £4.5 million, also seems to have caused a few unhappy fans to vent their annoyance due to Lambert's age: 32.

OFFICIAL: Rickie Lambert has completed his £4.5m move from Southampton to Liverpool.

— Transfer Sources (@TransferSources) June 2, 2014

On a two-year deal, Liverpool may pay out a total of around £8 million or so including wages and fees. As a third- or fourth-choice centre-forward, he'll be expected to no doubt participate in around 25-30 games for the Reds in all competitions, giving Sturridge and Luis Suarez enough downtime to be at their best when needed for the biggest matches whilst also contributing somewhere close to double figures in goals.

If he does that, he should likely contribute to the Reds challenging for the top four again and perhaps making it through the Champions League group phases, which would easily repay that £8 million total fee.

Financially, it's not a big gamble or outlay for the club, despite the age of the player and the lack of sell-on fee. Lambert will repay the money in other ways.

There also remains a question over the future of Fabio Borini: Will he return to the club, or head out once more, on loan or permanently?

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Either way, Borini can play as a forward or from the wing. Lambert is extremely likely to be the only pure centre-forward the Reds bring in. Others will contribute to the different systems, formations and tactical instruction from Brendan Rodgers.

As always, one transfer in isolation should never be what is used to judge the plans of the team going forward. The Reds will still need to add another quality attacker, especially in the attacking midfield or wider areas, with plenty of pace and final-third product. The signing of Lambert doesn't change that, but it does change who they will turn to from the bench in some games, choosing Lambert rather than Victor Moses or Iago Aspas, perhaps.

It's been a long road back to Liverpool for Rickie Lambert, but he'll show next season that he has a part to play.

You can find Liverpool's 2013-14 season review here in paperback or for Kindle.


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