Daniel Sturridge’s midweek double against Spurs gave Jürgen Klopp a timely reminder, if one was needed, of what he brings to the table.
Sturridge produced 2 cool, clinical finishes and was only denied a deserved hat trick by a combination of Vorm and the crossbar.
His previous Anfield start was an altogether different story as he struggled to impose himself against Mourinho’s back six, often cutting an isolated figure. There’s a school of thought that Sturridge is unsuited to Klopp’s incessant, high-energy style of football, and a system that sees the front players constantly interchanging. It’s hard to disagree with that view at times.
Certainly, the Reds’ two below par league performances this season, away at Burnley and at home to the Mancs, both saw Sturridge start. There’s little doubt he does his best work in the opposition’s penalty box.
Klopp’s system only really allows for one “traditional” centre forward , and if you’d asked who those were at the start of the season, most people would have came up with the names of Origi, Ings and Sturridge. Yet Roberto Firmino is ahead of all 3 at present, and deservedly so. As for the other 3 “forward” positions – Mane, Coutinho and Lallana have made them their own, with the team virtually picking itself at the moment.
The days of Liverpool pinning their hopes on Daniel Sturridge are over, but that’s as much a compliment to the squad Klopp is building and the system he is implementing as it is a reflection on the direction Sturridge’s career is heading. It’s a far cry from 2 years ago when the Reds, in the wake of Luis Suarez’s departure, looked to Sturridge to fill that gigantic void. When it became apparent that his body (and mind?) wasn’t up to it, the Brendan Rodgers era quickly unraveled.
In the wake of the United game, a quick glance at social media saw plenty of obituaries being written about Sturridge’s Liverpool career. But along with Origi and Ings he gives us strength in depth, and a quick look at the history books tells you not having that will ultimately prove damaging.
In 2008-2009, Fernando Torres was Liverpool’s only recognised senior striker once the Robbie Keane experiment was abandoned. Dirk Kuyt had long since been converted into a right sided midfielder, while David Ngog was a long way off being capable of filling Torres’s boots. Torres didn’t score a league goal at Anfield until January, yet the Reds amassed 86 points and lost just twice all season. Who knows whether having other attacking options would have helped us secure those extra 4 points needed to snatch the title from the Mancs. Peter Crouch, anyone?
By the closing weeks of 2013-2014, the team (Suarez and Sturridge included) had little left in the tank following a Herculean effort that took us to the brink of the title. That we turned to Iago Aspas and Victor Moses in an attempt to rescue the Chelsea and Palace games says it all.
Yet this current squad has an embarrassment of riches in the forward positions, and Sturridge is integral to that. He’s got experience of being in a title race and, let’s not forget, still had one of the best goals to games ratio of any Liverpool striker, ever. His performance against Spurs proved yet again he’s the best finisher we’ve got and that his best days are far from behind him. His injury record, another constant subject of debate, has also noticeably improved since Klopp succeeded Brendan Rodgers.
With Sadio Mane off to the African Nations Cup in the new year, there’ll be one starting place definitely up for grabs, and there are bound to be injuries and suspensions. Origi was the perfect foil for Sturridge against Tottenham as the 2 of them ran an admittedly inexperienced Spurs defence ragged. I can think of worse “back up” forward lines!
Daniel Sturridge may not be first choice in this current Liverpool side, but for me that shouldn’t mean that his Anfield career is written off every time he has a bad game. Who knows how vital a fresh and raring to go Daniel Sturridge could prove to be at the business end of this current season if we can build on our excellent start.
Selling him would only weaken the squad, and why would Klopp want to do that? I think we’d be mad to consider offloading him in January.
Written by @pilnick_jimmy