It hasn’t been the most encouraging of starts for Southampton since their much anticipated return back to the Premier League in August. After the euphoria of successive promotions on the South coast, the first eight games have served the Saints a reality check.
No side in Premier League history have shipped in more goals than the 24 Southampton have thus far, and with just one win on the board, it already seems a season of struggle awaits.
But it is far from a total doom and gloom situation at Southampton, and there are plenty of positives that Nigel Adkins will have taken from his sides early exchanges back in the top flight. Firstly, his side have proved that they can compete with the very elite, having pushed both Manchester clubs all the way only to cruelly lose both fixtures 3-2. Secondly, his side have the ability of scoring goals, just as well considering their defensive record.
Southampton have netted in all but one of their league games so far, and a key reason for this is the form of Rickie Lambert. Having played in all four divisions of English football, there was discussion as to whether Lambert could cut it at the highest level, but those doubts have been well and truly answered and he will form an integral part of Southampton’s survival strategy. He has notched four goals so far, twice in the aforementioned defeats against Man City and Man United, and more importantly he got two goals against Aston Villa as the Saints picked up their solitary win so far.
It is this reason why it is imperative that he remains at Southampton beyond January, so it is certainly a surprise to see reports this week suggesting that Southampton are looking to “cash in” on the striker if the right deal comes along, and that Stoke is a likely destination.
When you concede as many goals as Southampton do, it is vital that you can continue to score goals down at the opposite end, and this is precisely what Lambert brings. More than anything, he is a goal scorer and is just what any club in a relegation dogfight needs. Lambert is a strong, physical presence that spearheads Southampton attacks, resembling an old fashioned centre forward, and I believe he is Southampton’s most prized asset.
If the Saints agree to let Lambert leave in January, it could well be that they will leave behind their Premier League status in the process.