To say it hasn't gone quite according to plan for Rickie Lambert would be an understatement. His signing was among the better romances of the transfer window, followed almost immediately by a goal for England in their World Cup preparations and a holiday cut short to join Brendan Rodgers' squad for a lengthier preseason. From humble beginnings being born as a beetroot to senior squad member at Liverpool, it was a wonderful story.
Like any overwrought summer romance, things were destined to sour, and while missing a penalty for the first time since evolving from beet to human in preseason probably didn't irrevocably alter Lambert's chances at success, it started a narrative that the striker was overawed at joining his boyhood club. He hasn't quite been able to shake that despite positive early season performances against Southampton and Manchester City, with shaky displays in limited action since only furthering the idea that things weren't going to be the fairy tale most had hoped for this summer.
Lambert came to Merseyside from the south coast with Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren, neither of whom has found overwhelming success since the move. Combined with Southampton's excellent start to the season, it's been less than ideal for all involved. But speaking after England's 3-1 win over Slovenia, Lallana again underlined his own intentions while also providing support for his long-running teammate:
"I speak to Rickie a lot, I've had the privilege of playing with him for the last four or five years. We knew it was never going to be easy, moving clubs and coming into a team that people expect a lot from. But I can assure you that we're both working hard day in, day out. When Rickie gets his chance, I'm sure he's going to take it. I'm sure there's a goal or two around the corner for him; it's the same with any striker, you want to be on the pitch as much as possible. People judge you on scoring goals. He is a massive asset to Liverpool and he has still got a lot to give."
One does get the sense that it's only a matter of time for both; with Lallana it seems to be more about actual time on the pitch than anything else, as he's looked dangerous during nearly every appearance for Liverpool. For Lambert it's been a slightly different story, with the lack of minutes appearing to have an impact on both sharpness and fitness. But when involved there's been glimpses, and to see him in the current attacking setup versus one that's more consistent doesn't do his ability justice. Like Balotelli, Lambert's struggles seem to be as much about the individual as the collective, and more direct, consistent support will hopefully see his impact heightened.