The 2013-2014 season saw Liverpool come within touching distance of the much anticipated (and elusive) first Premier League title since its inception in 1992 with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge (SAS) inspiring Rodgers’ side past 100 goals in the League. Sturridge notably featured in the PFA Team of the Season chipping in with 21 goals finishing behind Suarez in the race for the Golden Boot.
Suarez left for greener pastures in the summer of 2014 and the mantle to lead the Liverpool attack was handed over to the former Manchester City and Chelsea forward. Constant injuries and poor fitness level restricted the Liverpool No. 15 to just 26 games in the following two seasons as the Kop grew frustrated with his recurring injuries with a portion of fans suggesting the forward needed to be bubble wrapped every time he came back fit.
Fast forward to the Klopp Era.
2016-2017 season has seen Klopp’s juggernaut taking shape into a genuine title contender but the ‘best natural finisher’ of the squad has been limited to a meagre 351 minutes of Premier League action.
In his 7 appearances so far this season, Sturridge is yet to open his account and has miserably fallen down the pecking order behind the ‘roving false 9’ Roberto Firmino and Belgian International Divock Origi.
Several pundits across the footballing fraternity are calling it curtains as far as Sturridge’s future at Anfield is concerned, especially when you take into account that he is too-27 to be playing a bit-part role.
Let us take a closer look at the hurdles that are making it difficult for the ace striker to break into ‘Klopp’s best XI’ at Liverpool:
- WORK RATE
What does Daniel Sturridge bring to the Liverpool lineup except goals?
However preposterous it may sound, the question does make a legit sense with regards to the contribution made by the likes of Lallana, Mane, Firmino and Coutinho for the Merseyside reds.
Much of Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing revolves around relentless running, hunting in packs, doubling (tripling at times) on the opposition player and closing gaps. Especially going against a high octane opponent like Spurs per say, Klopp expects players to make use of ‘the best play-maker in the world’ to press high up the pitch and win the possession in the final third to wreak havoc for the opposition. The perpetual work ethic of a certain Firmino shows exactly why he is Liverpool’s No. 9.
While comparing the number of high intensity sprints per 90 minutes, Sturridge makes 54 high intensity sprints compared to Firmino’s 78. Interestingly, Sturridge also finishes last while comparing the distance covered per 90 minutes with Adam Lallana (12.50 km) leading the pack with Firmino (11.48 km), Coutinho (11.06 km) and Sadio Mane (10.68 km) all working harder than Sturridge (10.26 km).
- DEFENSIVE CONTRIBUTIONS
Klopp’s famous Gegenpressing tactic puts particular importance in the role of his attacking players when it comes to closing down opponents, and this is exactly where Sturridge has been desperately disappointing thus far. Jurgen Klopp is a manager that demands an extremely high defensive work-rate from all his players.
An average of 0 defensive contributions says it all for DStudge. In 351 minutes this season, the forward has made 1 interception, 0 blocks, 0 clearances and has won 0 tackles. While Firmino on the other hand wins a tackle, makes an interception or a block every 42 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp acknowledges the need to have a forward that contributes to the defensive duties and spoke about Sturridge’s omission for the early season match at White Hart Lane saying, “I made the decision based on the kind of defending that was important for Tottenham.”
As clearly as he can put forth, the gaffer demands all his players buzzing through the full course of the game and Sturridge certainly needs to put in that effort if he wants to break into the first team picture.
- STYLE OF PLAY
Sturridge is a quality striker, one of the better finishers both for his club and his national team. He is good holding the ball up in the final third, playing as the target man or playing that fox-in-the-box poacher role that Liverpool once craved for. The kind of player only effective when the entire game is built and revolves around him but unfortunately (for Sturridge) it’s a different era altogether for a one man team to flourish at Anfield. It is a pleasant sight for the Anfield faithful to shed the dependency on individuals as this rejuvenated side has goals coming from all positions of the pitch.
Out of the 24 goals scored by this Liverpool side, the fierce foursome of Firmino, Coutinho, Lallana and Mane have contributed to 15 goals and 10 assists. It is as if these forwards are playing as a single cohesive unit at times, combining with striking fluidity, clever mobility, often switching positions and scoring for fun with delightful selflessness.
Daniel Andre Sturridge on the other hand has got a paltry 3 assists to his name in his last 33 appearances for Liverpool.
It is also quite intriguing how Liverpool look better off without Sturridge in the lineup, most notably during that 0-0 draw against Manchester United where he went missing for most part of the game and Liverpool only started to look threatening upon his substitution with Adam Lallana.
- LACK OF FLEXIBILITY
The 27 year old also has a cranky side to him, and it always makes you wonder how he parted ways with his former clubs owing to lack of playing time.
After featuring in the 5-0 drubbing of Burton Albion and coming off the bench to bag a brace playing on the flank, Sturridge explained his displeasure (much to Klopp’s annoyance I presume) and said, “Of course it is more difficult for me to play wide. I’m a centre-forward. Everyone knows where I enjoy playing the most. I have to do a job for the team. That’s not saying I am happy to do it.”
He could learn from fellow compatriot James Milner who has gracefully taken up the Left Back role and has been a revelation individually as well as for the collective good, consequently been rewarded with four goals courtesy his ‘not-so-boring’ penalties.
He is 27 and it is justified for him to seek regular playing time but it will be interesting to see how he responds to the situation with Ings being out for the season with a devastating knee injury and Mane most probably going out for AFCON in January.
[Reflecting on the Sturridge situation] Klopp said, “The moment is a good moment. It is not easy. Most of his time in his life, football has been so easy because he is so skilled. I think it is a very useful moment in his career.”
It is as clear as it gets from the gaffer, inspiring Sturridge to work his socks off and turn things around for himself. JK certainly knows the quality of his No. 15 but Sturridge is anything but indispensable for Klopp’s team.
The much talked about ‘reaction’ from Daniel Sturridge will determine his fate and future at Anfield. With that being said, a player of his calibre can simply walk into the best of teams across Europe.