When you mention the name Daniel Sturridge you hear a mixture of things. ‘Clinical striker, injury-prone, unreliable, deadly when healthy, broken down, overrated.’ You get the picture For Liverpool fans, he can be a very polarizing figure indeed.
Sturridge was only three seasons from finishing as the Premier League’s golden boot runner-up, to his own teammate Luis Suarez no less. He scored 21 goals in 2013-14 and was naturally selected to represent England at the 2014 World Cup. Since that time though, things have taken a downward turn for Daniel.
Sturridge has suffered injury upon injury, setback after setback for the past few years now. When he plays, he can have a major impact within mere minutes of coming onto the pitch. His positioning, timing and awareness are still among the best in the league among strikers, as is his ability to find the back of the net. Football can be an unforgiving game however. As the injuries began to accumulate so too did the competition for playing time within Liverpool’s attack.
Roberto Firmino, who was signed during the summer of 2015, has become a very dependable scoring option. Additionally, young Belgian striker Divock Origi was getting more attention from manager Jürgen Klopp in Sturridge’s absence, before being loaned out to VfL Wolfsburg this past transfer window. So where does this leave Sturridge? Well, for one, Liverpool cannot allow him to leave because it would cost far too much to replace him at the moment, given that the Red’s defence is in complete shambles. Klopp knows that a healthy Sturridge is still an elite-level player and one that can change the course of a game in the blink of an eye.
Liverpool’s main priority this summer was to sign a world-class centre back (looking at you Virgil Van Dijk) as well as build depth in the midfield for the current UEFA Champions League campaign. That being the case, it is undeniable that Sturridge still fits into Klopp’s plans, despite the manager at times playing “favorites” with many of his players (dating back to his time at Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund). The Reds simply put, need the experience as well as the talent up front. Roberto Firmino by himself is simply not enough to carry Liverpool through 38 Premier League matches, the FA cup and the rest of the Champions League. Newly-signed youngster Dominic Solanke has showed promise, though he is still miles away from being a reliable starting XI player.
The reality is that Liverpool are in no position at this time to let an important offensive player leave. Based on recent performances, LFC may indeed have to outscore their opponents in every match rather than being able to rely on a clean sheet this season. It would appear for the moment at least, that Daniel Sturridge and The Reds are indeed locked into a forced marriage. It should furthermore be noted that Sturridge is a player with good character who has the respect of his teammates. This makes him a popular figure within the squad itself and makes him a “total package” player. When healthy, I still prefer Sturridge over Firmino, Origi, or Solanke. For the time being however, it would appear that the only role Klopp is willing to give Sturridge is that of a “super-sub.”
Klopp’s presumable thought is that Sturridge has a greater chance to punish a tired, worn-down defence in the final stretch of a match coming off of the bench. A fresh Sturridge coming on in the 75th minute has proven to be a highly effective weapon for Liverpool dating back to last season. When used in this fashion, LFC gets a productive Sturridge while simultaneously reducing the wear and tear on the player. Despite Daniel’s recent success in this role, I would prefer to see Klopp split the striker position more evenly between Sturridge and Firmino. There could be many benefits to such an approach.
If Jürgen Klopp is feeling particularly brave he could also experiment with a two-forward system allowing Sturridge and Firmino to play together up front, much the same as Suarez and Sturridge did in 2013-14. As we approach the halfway mark of 2017-18 season it is clear, to me at least, that Daniel Sturridge still has an important role to play with The Reds. As previously stated, I believe there is still a chance for Daniel to regain his status as a consistent starter. One sub-bar performance at Newcastle should not be the determining factor of whether this happens or not.
Regardless of how everyone feels about Sturridge’s future at the club (and there are many many opinions, trust me), or what role he may play for the rest of this campaign, as a Liverpool supporter, you should only wish to see him return to top-form on a consistent basis, whether it means he plays for 15 minutes as a closer, or for the full 90. If Daniel Sturridge can be the player he is capable of being, beyond mere glimpses here and there, then perhaps by season’s end the polarity can finally be laid to rest and the Liverpool FC faithful can be unified in simply describing him as: “A Difference-maker.”