Rickie Lambert fitted the pre-season bargain profile perfectly. He came armed with a record that more that suggested he’d be a prime Fantasy talent; a monopoly of Southampton’s attacking output that saw him fetch 27 goals and 14 assists, an involvement in almost half of their goals as the Saints swept to automatic promotion from the Championship.
The optimism surrounding Lambert’s potential took an early jolt, only to be resurrected almost immediately. Saints’ boss Nigel Adkins tinkered with his lineup for their opening fixture at Man City, leaving Lambert straining on the leash from the subs bench. Belatedly, he made his Premier League bow as a second half sub and coolly stroked home an equaliser before the Saints eventually succumbed to a marauding City.
A disappointing blank in the 2-0 home defeat to Wigan quelled the enthusiasm but Lambert was back in the side and on the scoresheet in the St Mary’s encounter with United. Lambert couldn’t prevent another defeat but not before contributing a towering header and a smart assist in the dramatic 3-2 setback.
In short, then, Lambert has already delivered on the top flight stage against two of the so-called toughest defences. Having proven his value to Southampton and his pivotal role in their attacking ambitions, it stands to reason that Lambert will get further opportunities to flourish now that the fixture list is brightening for Adkins’ men.
While Danny Graham has, so far, failed to capitalise on Swansea’s buoyant start to the season with just one strike, Lambert has sneaked up and, in our Watchlist rankings at least, now superseded him as the budget striker option of choice. Graham still holds the advantage in terms of ownership in the Fantasy Premier League game (7.3% vs 5.8%) but that could be set to change in the coming weeks.
Sadly for Lambert, the landscape up front has now been altered, however. Dimitar Berbatov and Steven Fletcher have both shown enough to have Fantasy managers freeing up funds to slot one of that pair alongside two heavy-hitters. Suddenly the budget striker option has become unfashionable – Graham and Lambert are perhaps off the agenda.
Lambert has the talent and fixtures to overcome this. Southampton have, amongst their defensive failings, bristled with creativity and goal threat, suggesting that they will attack over their forthcoming fixtures. The arrival of Gaston Ramirez, already impressive in his Emirates cameo, only adds to their arsenal to help keep Lambert fed.
With set-pieces and penalties in his locker, the 31-year-old Lambert looks almost certain to be in profit if Adkins can turn his attacking outlook into goals. This potential could yet sway some from the allure of the mid-price prospects on offer. The home clash with Villa will be looked upon as the start of Southampton’s season and could see the Lambert bandwagon revving its engines as another differential comes good.
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For Gameweek 38
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