Daniel Sturridge scores lots of goals. Wherever he has played during his relatively short career to date, that is what he has done and what he likely to do for some time yet. For this succinct and simple reason, he should be made the focal point of the Liverpool team as they look to mount a serious title challenge for the second season running.
Luis Suarez has gone and whether you have idolised him as a genius of the ilk of Eric Cantona, worth all the controversy that goes with him, or are glad to see the back of one of the most disruptive influences the world game has ever seen; Liverpool will struggle to replace the Uruguayan. But do they need to?
Every now and again, a player comes along and plays football that you think you will never see the likes of again. A young Torres at Liverpool, Ronaldo at Manchester United, Dider Drogba at Chelsea to name but a few. They wowed the fans and pundits alike and when the few that decide to leave for Barcelona or Real Madrid do so, many fans think that it’s the end of an era and that their team will never recover. This rarely turns out to be the case. In these scenarios, what is needed is a pragmatic and considered approach to rebuilding the aesthetic of the team.
In the case of Liverpool, it is extremely doubtful that Brendan Rodgers will be scouring world football for another Luis Suarez. What he will be doing is working out how he can generate the thirty league goals and thirteen assists that the Salto born talisman provided for his team during the last campaign.
Daniel Sturridge undoubtedly had the finest season of his fledgling career last time around and scored twenty two goals, helping Liverpool to become the surprise package of the season and narrowly lose the championship to the deserved victors in Manchester City. This would not have been possible without Suarez’ goals, but neither would it have been without the efforts of “Studge”. He led the line for Liverpool when Suarez was suspended and Liverpool enjoyed a strong start to the campaign, one that ended up being the platform for an unprecedented 84 point haul for the Merseysiders. As Liverpool fans will be keen to tell you, Liverpool’s record without Suarez in the team and with Sturridge up front was excellent.
So then, it is surely time for Daniel Sturridge to become the main man for Liverpool and assume responsibility as the focal point of last season’s most prolific attack. Does he have the tenaciousness and trickery of his former colleague, no. But no one does. What he does have is strength, pace, composure and a touch that many believe to be second to none in the Premier League.
Keeping The Faith…
One only has to look at the success of Southampton last season to see what happens when faith is put in a young English striker to lead the line. Jay Rodriguez may have mustered just fifteen goals last season but one wonders what he would achieve in front of a world class midfield.
Regardless of where in the country or on the pitch Sturridge has played, he has scored goals. Whether as a youngster at Manchester City or at Chelsea where he struggled slightly out of position on the flank, he has always been involved. A loan to Bolton where he scored freely still couldn’t get him a starting berth at Stamford Bridge, despite him scoring eleven goals in thirty games in his last full season; many of these games being from the bench.
His record since joining Liverpool and playing in his favoured position really speaks for itself and the respect Suarez has for him is something that should be duly noted. Suarez rarely respects other footballers. Twenty two goals and seven assists put Sturridge behind only his former team mate in the overall goals and assists table for the 2013/14 campaign. Even after his departure, the partnership forged between the SAS last season is likely to have an ever lasting effect on Sturridge’s game, and if Luis Suarez’ letter to the fans is anything to go by, there is nothing to say it may not be rekindled in years to come; whether this be at Anfield or elsewhere.
Time To Shine…
Making Daniel Sturridge the main man in attack at Liverpool instead of searching for a ready-made replacement for a player who simply can’t be replaced is surely the prudent plan of action. We’ve seen it with many players before, who have then gone on to revel in such a shift. Carlos Tevez comes to mind. Undoubtedly influential but hardly prolific at Manchester United, the Argentine fired in forty three goals in just over sixty games in his first two seasons, this when used as the sky blues’ number one striker.
Of course, none of this is advice is directed at Brendan Rodgers as he will be well aware of the attributes his players possess, but perhaps the doubters who have written off Liverpool’s chances or replicating last season’s efforts of last season should calm down somewhat. Suarez is gone but Rodgers’ philosophy remains, as do such offensive threats at Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge himself.
Manchester United won titles post-Ronaldo, Fernando Torres was endeared by fans and Liverpool most definitely became a stronger team without him; eventually. A superstar may have left Anfield, but in the likes of Henderson, Sterling, Lallana, Sturridge and Coutinho, as well as the plethora of big names being linked to a move to Liverpool, there is still and young, hungry attack which will be looking to wreak havoc on defences again this season.
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Shore Up At The Back…
The defence for Liverpool is of course a different matter and will be a department which should look quite different come mid-August. Glen Johnson’s defensive frailties, Mamadou Sakho and Jose Enrique’s injury problems and the inconsistency of Messrs Agger and Skrtel (despite the latters’ form in front of goal) all contributed to a rather calamitous season at the back for Liverpool. Something the fans have never been used to. Whether Rodgers chooses to clear out and start again or show faith in his rear guard remains to be seen, but he will surely be looking to tighten up an area which ultimately cost Steven Gerrard and Liverpool what would have been a pretty special Premier League title last season. If the £75 million gained from the sale of Luis Suarez is to be used anywhere, it should surely be on saving the fifteen odd goals that scuppered an otherwise incredible season.
This may have all come across as a pro-Liverpool pre-season rant aimed at glossing over the loss of a superstar, it isn’t. It is simply a case for a club challenging for the Premier title to use the undeniably excellent British talent it already has at its disposal. This should surely be preferred to “doing a Tottenham” and spending their newly inflated transfer budget on an array of unproven European fringe players. If this can be successfully implemented by Brendan Rodgers then not only could Liverpool be pleasantly surprised with the results, but England may also end up with the backbone of a team that can actually look to achieve something in France in two years’ time.