Lambert move makes sense
Brendan Rodgers usually has as little regard for big centre forwards as Superman has for Kryptonite. One of his first acts as Liverpool boss was to offload club record signing Andy Carroll even though it left him with just one natural striker to call upon going into the season. The reason? He didn't really fit in. I t was a little surprising then to see him swoop for Southampton's Merseyside born target man Rickie Lambert this week. Carroll and Lambert were both competing for the same spot in Roy Hodgson's England squad for this summer's World Cup because they provide "something different" (essentially a polite way of saying "he's a big old unit").
Liverpool's new big man got the nod over their old one for Brazil, but will Lambert succeed at Anfield where Carroll failed?
Here's five reasons why he will:
1) Value for money.
Forget the fact he's 32; Gary McAllister was 35 when he joined Liverpool yet he made a huge impression in a short space of time. This is not a long term signing and Lambert has three years on "Gary Mac" so his age is not important. Liverpool have signed a striker who records double digits in goals and assists every season and they have only had to pay (an initial) four million pounds to acquire him.
Carroll was younger, had more upside and resale value but Liverpool still lost around 15 million pounds on the deal because they vastly overpaid for him. Additionally, the player himself was under huge pressure form the start due to that hefty price tag.
Lambert, on the other hand, is as close to a risk free signing as you'll find. If it doesn't work out there will be plenty of clubs out there happy to give Liverpool their money back for him and unlike with Carroll, expectations are more likely to be in line with the player's ability.
2) Brendan Rodgers is a huge Lambert fan.
The Liverpool boss was gushing in his praise of Lambert in the build up to Southampton's visit to Anfield last season and also revealed that he'd sent the striker a congratulatory fax when he made his England debut. That speaks volumes as Lambert is not the kind of striker you'd necessarily associate with a Rodgers team. Carroll was always up against it once Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish as the Northern Irishman does not favour "target men" and his forwards are usually mobile and interchangeable.
Few would have expected Lambert to be on Liverpool's shopping list this summer but there's much more to his game than his aerial prowess. He's a different beast entirely to Carroll. It's also worth mentioning that Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino played a similar style of football to Liverpool, which perhaps explains Rodgers' rumoured pursuit of half the Saints' squad.
3) Liverpool now have a Plan B (of sorts).
While Rodgers believes that the best Plan B is to make Plan A better, many Kopites would have initially liked Carroll to have been kept on as an option from the bench; someone who offers a different kind of problem to the opposition than Luis Suarez for example. Rodgers was steadfast in his belief and over time his methods have proved successful.
Calls for a Plan B were noticeably absent for much of last season as Liverpool plundered 101 Premier League goals. The only time it was seriously brought up was when Chelsea's "parked bus" frustrated Liverpool in what proved to be the most decisive game of the title race. Sending on Iago Aspas to break down Chelsea was the football equivalent of trying to knock down a brick wall with a pillow.
Lambert is an excellent finisher who offers height and physical presence combined with skill and intelligence but unlike Carroll, his presence in the side won't automatically result in crosses being launched at him from all angles.
4) He will not expect to play every week.
Few international class strikers are prepared to sit on the bench without being overly compensated to do so. That was another reason Carroll was moved on -- the big Geordie wanted to play. Perhaps some Kopites would have preferred to see Rodgers move for Romelu Lukaku or Loic Remy instead of Lambert this summer but those players would expect to be first choice and would also command massive salaries. Liverpool have money to spend but they also have positions of much greater need than a back up striker.
Lambert provides quality cover for a reasonable wage and due to his love of the club he will be happy to help out in any way he can and not make waves in the dressing room if he isn't starting.
5) He's a Red.
Every game Lambert plays for Liverpool he will be living the dream; even pre-season games will feel like a cup final to him. Pulling on the famous red shirt will mean more to the Kirkby born front man than anyone else in the squad, including even Steven Gerrard.
The skipper is regarded as "Mr Liverpool" having spent his entire career at the club and he too is living out his boyhood dream. Unlike Lambert, however, he has not experienced playing in the lower leagues and did not have to go through the pain of being rejected by the club at 15. Lambert said being released by the Reds as a teenager "felt like the end of the world" and thought his chance of playing for the team he supports had long gone.
There will be nobody more determined to play for the shirt next season and his enthusiasm could prove to be infectious, both to his team-mates and the Anfield crowd. Feel-good stories are rare in modern football and this one has shades of John Aldridge being signed by Kenny Dalglish from Oxford United in 1987 (or to a lesser extent Robbie Fowler returning in 2006). It doesn't happen often, but dreams do occasionally come true.