Daniel Sturridge may not have been regarded as the crucial main man when Luis Suarez was around, but only now are we starting to see how much our team relies on his presence, writes Rebecca Parry.
Against Aston Villa and Ludogorets at Anfield this week, we’ve seen first hand the effect that even just his movement provides to our whole team.
With no disrespect to Mario Balotelli, we are looking at a different type of player. And that’s not a criticism; at times in the past few years, all we’ve needed is for someone to literally be there for when the chances arrive. And Balotelli did that extremely well in taking his late goal against Ludogorets, but did seem to drift wide at times in the first half and in the Villa game.
But from having the overwhelming duo of Suarez and Sturridge last year, to the last couple of games without either of them, there is no real surprise that performances have recently suffered.
Sturridge holds the ball up so well, an attribute that we may have took for granted when we were too busy praising the genius of Suarez (and rightly so at the time).
But watching the past two games, it brought back horrible memories of the Chelsea game from last year – realistically, the game that cost us the title.
When we do see a lot of the ball, possession is sometimes wasted as there is no real focal point. The way that we play doesn’t compliment us when the opposition have 11 men behind the ball, we just seem to struggle in mastering a plan B.
The movement that Sturridge brings to the side when we are on the attack is so vital for space to be created; movement that the whole team was praised for last year. The quick, unforgiving, pass and move football that dazzled and overwhelmed any team that came up against us.
In The Spotlight
Sturridge always said that he wanted to be the main man, the one in the spotlight, and the one that everyone relies on to bring the goals in. After last year with Suarez having such a stunning season, he was more of a package or just seen as the one that benefitted from the type of work that Suarez brought to the team.
The beginning of this season, it was his chance to show that he can be a one man team up front, and that he can create as well as finish off chances, even without the help of Luis.
And against Southampton, we did see that he can finish the chances when they matter most. He does more work than we notice, with so much work being done off the ball, and now seemingly with less service.
International Injury Saga
Of course, and in my opinion, international breaks three games into the new season are just a recipe for disaster in terms of injuries. Players haven’t had the chance to recuperate properly from the Summer, and get back into the demands that the Premier League requires.
It’s a topic that everyone has had a say on, and that Brendan Rodgers put perfectly when mentioning that every player has different needs in terms of recovery time. Just because they are on international duty, doesn’t necessarily mean that their fitness programs go out the window.
However, now, the international injury saga isn’t something that we can turn back with the clock on. Even though Sturridge has only been missing for two games, it became increasingly evident how much our system is dependent on each and every player’s contribution, and some more than others.
The New “SAS”
Although precautionary measures were made to rest Sterling for parts of the games too, his relationship with Sturridge has become more apparent with the forward’s absence. We even saw good examples of their on-pitch connection when playing in that first England game. There is a lack of movement, which I suppose can be expected when we’ve taken Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez out of the equation – our three most influential players in attack last year.
It’s not certain when Sturridge will be available again, although he has returned to light training this week. You’d hope that when he returns, the attacking play will be more fluent and presents our “diamond” players with the focal point to reap the rewards.