Is Lambert’s Move To Liverpool The Wrong One?

Lambert signs on at Liverpool (Image from Getty)Last season was for Rickie Lambert the thing that dreams are made off. Starring in a high flying Premiership side as their lead striker, pulling on an England Jersey aged 31 for your first cap against arch rivals Scotland before scoring the winning and finishing the season as part of England’s World Cup squad heading for Brazil. And now to top things off, he is heading back to his boyhood club Liverpool as their first summer signing. You could hardly blame Lambert if he felt that he needed to pinch himself. Liverpool are obviously keen to take advantage of Mauricio Pochettino’s departure from Southampton and snap up Lambert for a fee believed to be in the region of £4million before the new manager has a chance to object. Or perhaps Liverpool wants to make sure they land the burly striker in advance of any star World Cup performance which brings in other suitors. Either way, Liverpool are playing their cards early as they gear up for another assault on the Premiership title and Champions League.

Hodgson has selected Lambert for his World Cup Squad  (Image from PA)

Hodgson has selected Lambert for his World Cup Squad
(Image from PA)

But the question that needs to be asked is why manager Brendan Rodgers has bought Lambert and how he intends to use his new striking option. In addition, given that Lambert is used to playing as a lone striker, can he adapt to Liverpool’s style of playing with two strikers. Likely Rodgers will use him sporadically as a different threat than his preferred current striking duo of Sturridge and Suarez. It’s also likely that Lambert will make more match appearances from the bench that he will start, which could in the long run damage Lambert’s ambitions to gain more England caps before his impending retirement in the next four to five years. At 32, this is Lamberts last big move and whilst Liverpool is a huge club, it’s hard to see how Lambert will be playing regularly as he would like or need to be. So whilst a move away from Southampton is inevitable, would a move to another Premiership club or abroad that could offer a starting slot be more beneficial to the player?

Starting Pair - Lambert faces a challenge to displace Suarez and Sturridge  (Image from Getty)

Starting Pair – Lambert faces a challenge to displace Suarez and Sturridge
(Image from Getty)

Depending on how Lambert plays at the World Cup, he could have his choice of clubs to play for. Lambert should look at Irish defender Gary Breen, who after a starring role at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan ended up with a move to Inter Milan before a failed medical that curtailed his Italian dream just as it began. Inter Milan were rumoured to have fought off Barcelona and Bayern Munich to seal Breen’s signature, which shows how powerful a showcasing tool the World Cup can be. This isn’t to say that this would or could happen for Lambert but he won’t know until after the end of the tournament or at least until England is knocked out. By signing for Liverpool now, his options are reduced to the bare minimum with few clubs likely to test the waters to sign him. Playing for your boyhood club is a dream of many a player and Lambert came close to doing so after being on Liverpool’s books for five years as a kid. But in the end they released him and kick started the long road back to the top for Lambert from lower league to World Cup. Heading back may open up old wounds but Lambert is older and wiser now so should be able to cope with it. Whether it ruins his career which he has fought so hard to build may however be harder to cope with.

Remember Gary Breen who was close to Inter Milan move after stunning World Cup  (Image from AFP)

Remember Gary Breen who was close to Inter Milan move after stunning World Cup
(Image from AFP)

Lambert breezed through his medical yesterday and signed the contract that officially makes him a Liverpool player. He spoke about fulfilling his dream to play once again for the club he loves and will be focused on proving his worth right from the first kick. Lambert will be aware that Liverpool have trudged this road before with a traditional British number 9 in the form of Andy Carroll with disastrous consequences. Carroll, a £35 million buy from Newcastle, failed to adapt to Liverpool’s system of playing and after a trouble filled 18 months was shipped out on loan to West Ham before eventually making the move permanent. Like Lambert, Carroll at the time had just made his break through into the England team and was seen as the future but now, after flopping at Liverpool, struggles to catch Roy Hodgson’s attention. Lambert must be careful not to fall into the same trap as Carroll who saw a move to Liverpool as the start of something great only for it to end in failure. If the same happened to Lambert, it would be the second time around that he was let down by the club he loves but unlike the younger Carroll, it may end up being the killer career move for the new England number nine.

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Which Young Gun Will Steal The PFA Young Players Title From Bale?

Last years winner Gareth Bale (Image from PFA)With our minds fixated on the title race that comes to a conclusion in the next few weeks, let’s turn our attention to the individual prizes at stake. In particularly, who will come away with the PFA Young Player of the year which will be a heavily contested category. Considering that since the turn of the century only two players from outside the UK have won the award (Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas), a lot of the candidates listed will be home grown. Its the trophy that every young player wants to win as it is voted on by your fellow professionals and is usually an indicator of the bright future you have ahead of you. Below are five favourites for the trophy, with the official list to be announced shortly:

The New Gazza - Ross Barkley  (Image from PA)

The New Gazza – Ross Barkley
(Image from PA)

Ross Barkley (20):

Barkley grew up in Wavertree in Merseyside just 15 minutes from Goodison Park and was always set for a bright future. This year under new boss Robert Martinez, Barkley has ascended into the spotlight, earning a starting spot on the opening day of the season and played a valuable role by scoring in their 2-2 draw with Norwich. He was noted as the man of the match and this would be the first of many. The talented central midfielder has been pulling the strings for Martinez and has been at the heart of the Toffee’s assault towards the top four. He’s been admirable in games against Swansea and Arsenal where his precise passing ability has been unbelievable. What makes the 20 year old such a fearful prospect is his confidence to make sudden bursts through the attack and create chances from nothing. His manager was quick to compare him to Michael Ballack and Paul Gascoigne after his outstanding solo effort against Newcastle last month. It’s believed that his season will be rewarded with a place on the plane to Brazil but it’s up to Hodgson whether he opts for young talent or experienced heads.

Running towards the title - Liverpool's Sterling  (Image from Getty)

Running towards the title – Liverpool’s Sterling
(Image from Getty)

Raheem Sterling (19):

On the red side of Merseyside, Liverpool fans are cheering the name of Sterling as he has firmly grasped his opportunity in the first team and has delivered with results. Liverpool became the front runners for the title race as they beat Manchester City 3-2 at home on the weekend with the first goal calmly taken by Sterling, notching his tally up to eight. He was one of the stand out players against City, causing problems for their defence every time he got on the ball. The winger also put in a standout performance against Arsenal in the second encounter at Anfield which finished 5-1. His extraordinary pace has caused nightmares for defenders this year and it seems to be the more he plays, the more confident he gets. Sterling was originally known for matters off the pitch as he became a father in 2012 and was arrested for alleged assault but was found not guilty. Both he and Brendan Rodgers have found that these experiences have helped him mature as a player. He too will be looking to play at the World Cup this summer.

Brazil bound? Luke Shaw  (Image from Getty)

Brazil bound? Luke Shaw
(Image from Getty)

Luke Shaw (18):

The Saints fullback has been getting a lot of publicity recently due to his dazzling performances which have been putting pressure on Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole for the role as the national left back. Shaw has risen up through the ranks at Southampton’s academy which has already developed some of the best players around including Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Gareth Bale. He’s already drawn attention from Manchester United as they plan to re-build after a devastating season where they have recorded their lowest points total since the Premier League began. Whether or not an agreement will be reached before the international tournament this June has yet to be announced but this distraction could jeopardise the 18 year old’s chances of playing on the world stage which would be a shame after what has been a flawless league campaign.

Ramsey started brightly but has faded  (Image from AFP)

Ramsey started brightly but has faded
(Image from AFP)

Aaron Ramsey (23):

The Welsh midfielder just makes the cut into the category but this will be the final time that Ramsey is eligible for this prize. Arsenal’s wonder kid had an unbelievable start to the season as he romped to eight goals in the league before the turn of the year. His passing and dribbling had been impeccable up until his injury which looks to have dropped him out of the running for the main PFA award. He scored key goals at the start of the season against Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Cardiff, his former club. He had been originally tipped to break through as one of the side’s influential midfielders in previous seasons but like before, he has been tarnished with injuries.

Bright spark in a dull season for United - Januzaj  (Image from Getty)

Bright spark in a dull season for United – Januzaj
(Image from Getty)

Adnan Januzaj (19):

Possibly a controversial choice, but it can’t be doubted that he has the confidence and the ability to be one of United’s brightest stars. From Belgian and Kosovo descent originally, Januzaj has options for who he plays for internationally including England but is choosing to focus on his club career first. The ‘boy who can do anything’ has been turning a lot of heads at Old Trafford ever since his making his first team debut against Sunderland in October where he scored a double to help United comeback from a goal down to win 2-1. This game generated a lot of hype for the winger who went on to get a nomination for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year after just playing 10 games for Manchester United. Just two weeks after scoring his brace, he signed a new five year contract, increasing his wages from £1,000 a week to £30,000. Since the media pressure cooker cooled down, Januzaj has been able to express himself more on the pitch and has had a key role in many of the team’s encouraging performances. Two weeks ago, Januzaj collaborated with Juan Mata to score a goal in the side’s 4-0 away win at Newcastle – sweet revenge after the side’s earlier 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture. He won’t be the favourite going into this year’s competition but he has certainly been one of United’s brightest star this year.

Let us know now who you think will win:

Post by Richard Waterhouse

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Chase is On To Become Record Breaking Champions

Hit for Six - Chelsea stunned Arsenal (Image from Getty)In one of the most exciting title races in recent years, three teams lead the way in terms of goals and excitement. All three had high scoring wins this past weekend in an effort to keep their chances of success alive. Chelsea drew first blood with an impressive 6-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. Not exactly the way Arsene Wenger had hoped to have spent the anniversary of his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal but his team were simply blown away by Jose Mourinho’s men. The Portuguese coach had poked the fire weeks early by suggesting that Wenger only knew how to lose, given his recent dry spell without a trophy. That kicked the preverbal wheels off of Arsenal’s title charge, which was all part of Mourinho’s master plan to begin with persumably. Saturday’s defeat all but confirmed that Arsenal’s only hopes of a trophy this year would come in the FA Cup, which is unless something catastrophic happens to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.

On fire - Suarez and Sturridge  (Image from Getty)

On fire – Suarez and Sturridge
(Image from Getty)

Manchester City’s reply to Chelsea throwing down the gauntlet at the Bridge was to hand out a drubbing of their own, albeit one less with five. Fulham put up a brave fight but were powerless to stop Yaya Toure from adding more weight to the claim of being one of the best midfielders in the world, with a stunning hat trick. His third demonstrated the gulf between the two sides, as he carefully picked the ball up some 25 yards out and effortlessly curled it past David Stockdale in goal.  A Fernandinho strike and a tap in by defender Martin Demichelis wrapped up the game and took City’s goals for tally to 76 for the season. The current Premiership winning goals tally sits at 103, scored by Chelsea in the 2009-2010 season so City still have 27 goals to find in their remaining 10 games. Not unrealistic given that they are averaging 3.68 goals a game. With Sergio Aguero still to come back to full fitness and Edin Dzeko hitting form, their goal scoring exploits look likely to continue for some time.

Toure and City celebrate against Fulham  (Image from PA)

Toure and City celebrate against Fulham
(Image from PA)

One team not to be out shot by City is this year’s surprise team, Liverpool. Firstly, an apology. This blog was critical in the past of Brendan Rodgers and his team especially Daniel Sturridge who were feared would never become a double digits striker in his career. As we sit and eat humble pie, Sturridge has impressed his critics with his fine displays during the course of this season and his lethal partnership with bad boy Luiz Suarez which has proven to be the catalyst behind Liverpool’s revival. Never truly considered a title contender in the past ten years, Rodgers has instilled a belief in his squad that says simply why not. Saturday’s thrilling performance against relegation threatened Cardiff, where they twice came from behind before eventually to win by 6 goals to 3, confirmed that they should not be discounted as a title hopeful. It was their sixth win in a row, the first time that they have done so since 2008. In that year, Liverpool finished behind Manchester United in the title race, three points ahead of Chelsea. Now sitting in 2nd place in the league (City are in 3rd with 2 games in hand), Liverpool are hot on Chelsea’s coat tails, four points behind with a game in hand. The new SOS strike force of Suarez and Sturridge (the previous being Blackburn’s Shearer and Sutton) have scored a combined total of 47 goals so far and Liverpool now lead the team goal scoring charts with 83. Few would bet against them from competing with Chelsea, not only for the title but for their goals record as well.

The original SOS - Sutton and Shearer  (Image from Empics sport)

The original SOS – Sutton and Shearer
(Image from Empics sport)

Early pretenders Arsenal and Tottenham have simply come to the boil too soon and now are slipping quickly. Arsenal’s biggest problem has been containing the current top three in the matches they have played against them this season. Remarkably Arsenal have conceded half of their 34 goals against in only three away matches – December’s 6-3 defeat to Manchester City, February’s 5-1 loss to Liverpool and Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea. At home, they did managed to pip Liverpool by 2-0 plus held Chelsea to a draw  so Saturday’s visit to the Emirates by Manchester City will give Wenger a chance to complete a unique trio of redemption results but will it be enough to kick start their title push once more? Arsenal have not been as prolific as the three other challengers, with 53 goals scored in the league to date (an average of 2 per game). Main striker Olivier Giroud has lead the way with 12 goals but lack of support or another recognised striker has hindered Arsenal’s overall push.

Giroud has been Arsenal's main goal threat  (Image from REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)

Giroud has been Arsenal’s main goal threat
(Image from REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)

Spurs on the other hand appear to have found their main striker, months after casting him aside. Sherwood’s reintroduction of Emmanuel Adebayor has been a masterstroke with the Togolese hitman scoring eight times in the league since Sherwood took over from the flapping AVB. Tottenham managed to sneak the win on Sunday against Southampton but any dreams of a title push died long ago, along with the team’s confidence. Sherwood has guided the way well but it won’t be enough for Spurs to challenge or for him unfortunately to keep his job come the end of the season. Already Southampton’s Mauricio Pochettino and Dutchman Louis Van Gaal have been installed as favourites for the job well before the seat has been vacated by Sherwood. As for current Champions, Manchester United, well we all know the story there. Moyes is focusing on winning the Champions League, knowing that the title is well out of reach. With Bayern Munich is his way howevere, it might not be that simple to do, so focusing on 5th place may be the better option. Either way it’s been a failure of a season for United and its new head coach who has much to do in the summer, if he is still around that is.

Chelsea's 2009 squad hold the record for top goalscorers with 103 (Image from PA)

Chelsea’s 2009 squad hold the record for top goalscorers with 103 (Image from PA)

The title will be decided in the next few weeks with clashes such as Manchester City vs Liverpool, Arsenal vs Manchester City and Liverpool vs Chelsea all having a key bearing on where the cup ends up come May 11th. All three teams have the firepower to keep on going all the way until the finish with Chelsea’s 2009 goal scoring record firmly under threat.

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April Round up – Goals, Gaffs and Guardiola

A Newcastle fan punches a horse (Image from Getty)May is the one of the most exciting months in domestic football. As the season draws to close, fans are poised on the edge of their seats waiting to see if their team is successful in winning the league, avoiding the drop or lifting the cup. For the first time since their famous win in 1997, Borussia Dortmund are looking forward to the Champions League final at Wembley on the 25th May, where they will face either Barcelona or fierce rivals Bayern Munich. The odds are firmly stacked against the Spanish side who trail 4-0 from the first leg but miracles do happen. Back in the Premiership, the fight for the title is over with Manchester United beating Manchester City to the post and picking up their 20th title, an english record. All eyes are now focused on the bottom of the table to see who will join QPR and Reading in the Championship next year. Newcastle, Wigan, Aston Villa and Sunderland are in a vicious dog fight with all four clubs desperate to avoid the drop.

On the Move - Mario Gotze  (Image from Reuters)

Champions League Final bound – Mario Gotze
(Image from Reuters)

Last month we took at look at two of those teams – Sunderland and Newcastle, focusing on two key stories, Sunderland’s appointment of controversal manager Paolo Di Canio and Newcastle’s recent slump which has left them dangling in the bottom half of the table. Di Canio got off to a flyer with unexpected wins against Everton and Newcastle before being cruelly brought back to earth with a bump by a rampant Aston Villa. Newcastle, who lost the Tyne Wear derby 3-0 have had a bad month, both on the pitch and off it. On the pitch, they crashed out of a winnable Europa League after defeat against Benfica then saw their domestic form slump as well picking up only 5 points out of a possible 15 during April. Off the pitch, the Tyne Wear derby was marred by the return of the english hooligan with Newcastle fans rioting after the match and one fan even punching a police horse. They were not alone in a month to forget for English football followers as fans of Millwall, Stoke, Bradford and Portsmouth all contributed to tarnishing the beautiful game’s reputation.

New Sunderland Boss Di Canio  (Image from Getty)

New Sunderland Boss Di Canio
(Image from Getty)

Also leading the charge in setting a bad example was Liverpool’s Luis Suarez who was banned for 10 games following an incident against Chelsea where he appeared to bite the arm of Branislav Ivanovic. The striker was slammed by his manager and the club for his actions before dramatically performing a U-turn and defending his actions, insisting it wasn’t worth a ten match ban. Very strange indeed. It could have been a lot worse for Liverpool, just look at AEK Athens who are now having to fight for survival without influential young midfielder Giorgos Katidis, now serving a ban for performing a nazi salute as a celebration. The incident which happened in March has not help AEK’s plight as they desperately tried to avoid the drop. However Sunday’s defeat in the final game, and a three-point deduction handed down for fan violence has resulted in AEK being relegated and dropping out of the Greek Super League for the first time in their history.

Suarez sinks his teeth in  (Image from SkySports)

Suarez sinks his teeth in
(Image from SkySports)

As AEK dismiss their manager following relegation, other teams across Europe are gearing up to follow suit. In a piece we called the six degrees of managerial separation, we predicted a chain of events that would start with Real Madrid and exiting manager Jose Mourinho and end back at Real with their new potential coach. See if you agree with us on our predictions. One manager who has already been confirmed is Bayern Munich’s new head coach, Pep Guardiola who has already started his revolution by signing Borussia Dortmund winger Mario Gotze. The player arrives for a record german transfer fee and kicks off what is sure to be a transformational time for the Bavarian club. Another club preparing for a transformational season is Cardiff City who led by Scot Malky Mackay celebrated last month with promotion to the Premiership. Cardiff will want to avoid the same fate as many promoted teams who find the move to difficult and end up back in the Championship after only a year. We looked at what Cardiff need to do to avoid the drop in their first season in England’s top division.

Going in the right direction - Cardiff win promotion  (Image from BBC)

Going in the right direction – Cardiff win promotion
(Image from BBC)

Also making the news last month was the never aging story of Nigerian footballer Taribo West, who Serbian officials are now pursuing over allegations that he lied about his age to gain a contract with Partizan Belgrade. It would appear that he is not the only player to have done this with other players from the same region reported to have done this. Two players who don’t need to do this just yet are Esbjerg’s Youssef Toutouh and Utrecht’s Mike van der Hoorn who made the news in April but for different reasons. Toutouh took the plaudits in April with a stunning effort against high-flying Randers whilst Van Der Hoorn felt the heat due to a clumsy error in Utrechts 6-0 defeat at the hands of AZ Alkmaar. Both players have exciting careers ahead of them so we are sure this won’t be the last time we hear from them. Also featured a crazy Bulgarian coach ripping up a referees cards, a goal from a goalkeeper, Bebeto’s resignation from the CBF and a look at Hamburg’s tactical woes in what proved to be a busy month. May is likely to throw up more interesting stories so please keep checking the blog and enjoy!

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