Since joining Liverpool from Chelsea in January 2013, Daniel Sturridge has been a standout player at the club. Although somewhat overshadowed by the genius of Luis Suarez at times, the England frontman was never comprehensively outshone by the Uruguayan, and that says something for the quality Sturridge has to offer.
For a season and a half Suarez and Sturridge terrorised defences in the Premier League. Branded SAS, the duo scored 72 league goals between them from January ’13 to May ’14 (41 for Suarez and 31 for Sturridge) until the two went their separate ways with Suarez trading Merseyside for Catalonia as he moved to Barcelona in July 2014 for a rumoured fee of £75 million.
Conversely, Sturridge stayed to continue plying his trade at Anfield, subsequently becoming Liverpool’s premier striker, despite the introduction of Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli. However, an injury plagued 2014/15 campaign saw Sturridge make only 12 appearances in the league, netting a meagre total of 4 goals, a stark contrast to his tally from previous seasons in red.
Ill fortune followed Sturridge into the next season as a recurring hamstring injury kept him out for over a month from December ’15 to January ’16. Although since recovering from that injury Sturridge has picked up where he left off, scoring freely, making his mark in Europe and playing an integral part in Liverpool’s run to the Europa League final in Basel.
Thus far this season Sturridge has been sidelined for a significantly less amount of time, missing only 6 games as he recovered from two spells out injured however, in spite of his fitness, Klopp has made the decision to bench the player that once terrorised Premier League defences for fun.
Gone are the days when Sturridge was Liverpool’s best hope of scoring goals and winning games as Klopp has revitalised the Reds, breathing new life into a stagnating side incapable replicating Suarez’s goal scoring antics.
The three-pronged attack of Coutinho, Firmino and Mané has proven wildly successful (with the supporting cast of Lallana, Wijnaldum/Can and Henderson) and the Reds have been scoring for fun at times this season.
Moreover, the emergence of Divock Origi as a formidable force, spearheading the Liverpool attack in Sturridge’s absence, has pushed the England hitman further down the pecking order in the Red’s attacking hierarchy. And with the young Belgian netting 17 goals in 22 starts it’s not too hard to see why he has found favour with Klopp, from his skill and finesse when on the ball, to his high work rate and clever movement when off, Origi is a player that nearly perfectly epitomises what the man in charge wants from an outright striker.
On the other hand Sturridge’s strengths do not lie in a high tempo style of play, with counter-pressing being emphasised as one of the most important aspects of a players game, regardless of position. The man is a more precise and surgical entity, playing high up the field, working to beat the offside trap and ghosting between defenders, relying on skill and deft movements to bring in the goals. And while that style of play is one that Sturridge excels at, it is not a philosophy that Klopp breeds or encourages at Liverpool as far as his coaching style is concerned.
Why then, you may be asking, is Sturridge still with Liverpool? No longer earning game time and not adopting the role of a ‘Klopp player’, not to mention how injury prone he is. Why not sell him in the January transfer window?
While often finding himself on the bench, Sturridge is far from surplus to requirements at Anfield, with fellow attackers Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings both injured, it would seem that at this moment, leading up to the high concentration of games over the holiday period, should one of Liverpool’s three frontmen sustain an injury it will be Sturridge who’ll step up in their absence. Furthermore, with Sadio Mané leaving to the African Cup of Nations in January it seems Sturridge will be a crucial player for the Reds over that month long period, if not longer.
While reinforcements are undoubtedly required for Liverpool’s attack, there should be no thoughts of replacing Sturridge whatsoever. When fit and firing on all cylinders the man is nearly unstoppable, regardless of the side he’s playing in or against.
Just as recently as the Merseyside derby on the 19th he demonstrated just how much he’s capable to swinging a game in favour of the Reds, even with minimal time given to make an impact. Had Sturridge not had the tactical awareness or finesse that he does, it is very possible the game would’ve ended 0-0, with Everton riding their luck to grind out a point. However, thanks to the impact Sturridge made, the chance was created for Liverpool to dispatch the Toffees after the England man’s initial shot cannoned back off the post and into the path of the advancing Mané.
While the role of an impact sub is far from a glamorous one, it is nonetheless crucial, as shown just under a week ago.
Not only does Sturridge play a crucial role for the Reds as an impact sub, but his sheer quality when playing should be enough alone to deter any thoughts of offloading him. He has made the difference in games before and without a doubt he will do so again, be it with his deft and subtle movement, his skill or his goalscoring ability, Sturridge offers something different for Klopp, adding strength and depth to the squad that has been sorely lacking for years now.
Should Liverpool even consider offloading Sturridge, they best have a world class replacement lined up for him as, on his day, he is comparable to some of the worlds greatest players and would be a huge loss for the Reds, should he go elsewhere.