When Liverpool confirmed the signing of Rickie Lambert from Southampton, running parallel with the positivity from the majority of Liverpool fans delighted at what they felt was a shrewd piece of business by Brendan Rodgers, was a fair share of belittling, largely from Manchester United fans.
And whilst a £4 million transfer for a 32-year-old Englishman – who worked in a beetroot packaging factory and a part-timer at Macclesfield, before working his way up the English football ladder – may not feel the most glamorous for a club aspiring to the Premier League title, the deal makes perfect sense.
Partly for his physique, and partly due to his football background, Lambert often isn’t given the credit he deserves. But any notion of him simply being a ‘big man’ is so far wide of the mark. Two seasons in the Premier League have notched up 28 goals and 15 assists, and his all-round play is finally beginning to receive the type of praise it is worthy of.
All season long, the thought of Liverpool being without both Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez was a nightmare scenario. With just Iago Aspas as back-up, the side would have lacked any killer instinct up top.
Even with Lambert there, the absence will damage the effectiveness of the side. But his presence lessens the impact of such possibility. If the impact of European football begins to take its toll on the squad, then Lambert may just quench Liverpool’s thirst as they plumb the depths of their well.
When you observe the way Lambert plays, it is his ability to vary his game and adapt which is most impressive. And it is this variation which will have been a crucial factor in Rodgers’ decision to bring him back to his boyhood club.
Lambert’s stature and physical presence is something Liverpool weren’t blessed with in attacking positions prior to his arrival. But his ability to win aerial duels, and bring the ball down with his back to goal is a key feature of his game, and something which Liverpool were previously unable to bring to the table.
Having won 65 aerial duels last season, to that of Suarez and Sturridge’s 12 and 2, respectively, Lambert can provide something drastically different. Whilst you wouldn’t expect Rodgers to adapt his side’s style of play – one which saw them come agonisingly close to lifting their first Premier League trophy – with Lambert in the side, they now have the ability to make a more direct tactical switch if called upon.
What’s more is that Lambert’s ability on the ball, and the fact he is accustomed to playing a more expansive style of football, should allow him to fit seamlessly into Liverpool’s side. Under Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton have always tried to get the ball on the ground, dominate possession, and play attractive football.
And under the Argentine, Lambert has excelled. His link-up play with the likes of Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez has been phenomenal at times – with a particularly notable performance against Tottenham. With the like of Suarez and Sturridge, as well as Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, to work with, who’s to say that Lambert can’t reach even greater heights.
Liverpool weren’t crying out for star quality in their attack. They already possess it in abundance. But Lambert’s addition seems right. He can provide something different to their current squad, and he should have no worries about having to adapt to their style of football. He may not cost have cost the earth, and may not yet have international recognition, but Lambert could just prove the shrewdest signing of the summer.