Of the seven matches in the Premier League in which he's featured as a Liverpool player, Rickie Lambert's made just one start and is yet to score. He's operated in a far more restricted role than any of the squad's other strikers--Daniel Sturridge was and will be the main man up front once he's fit, Mario Balotelli increasingly looks as though he's only going to be effective as a partner to Sturridge rather than a replacement, and with Fabio Borini firmly Pacheco'd, Lambert is the only option to come on if something needs changing.
It's what he provided against Southampton and Manchester City at the start of the season before featuring less and less, and in a half-hour cameo yesterday, he started to find his way back, partnering Balotelli to good effect despite the fact that the goals didn't come. Lambert was positive about the performance, and underlined the need for some patience with his strike partner as well:
"We were pushing for that goal, but it didn't come. Full credit to Hull, some of their last-ditch tackling was some of the best I've seen. We were unlucky not to score on those occasions. We deserved a goal and we're frustrated that we couldn't get it. I was waiting for my chance to get on. My idea going on was to score a winner. I didn't manage to do it but I'd like to think I made a contribution. I didn't get a chance to score a goal. We pressured them and we had the chances, we just didn't manage to take them - which is frustrating.
"I know how hard that position is, when you're playing 4-3-3 with the one up top. There are so many different attributes asked of you. I thought (Mario Balotelli) held the ball up, made runs and was just unlucky with a couple of chances. I want to be on there with him, I want to be playing of course. But I thought he did well. Mario, myself and every striker knows it's about what's best for the team, whatever way the manager wants to play, whether it's one or two up front. We have to give our best."
Liverpool were much better once Lambert arrived with Philippe Coutinho, but it was again clear that Lambert isn't a match-changer in terms of technical ability or quality. Some of that is likely down to rust, as his playing time has been both infrequent and brief, but he's also not a comprehensive striker. What he can provide (and largely did yesterday) is strong hold-up play, good linking across the forward line, and an eye for the pass with runners overlapping. On a handful of a occasions yesterday he did as much, and as his involvement increases, he'll hopefully prove more of a threat in front of goal as well.
We should see him get a start on Tuesday against Swansea, and hopefully that leads to more confidence and fitness ahead of what's now a crucial away fixture to Newcastle.
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