Daniel Sturridge had to watch from the sidelines, having been ruled out for three weeks after picking up an injury on international duty with England, and there was an alarming lack of a spark without him in the team.
Although much of the pre-game hype was about the home debut of Mario Balotelli- many felt Sturridge’s absence would not be too noticeable because of the signing of the Italian- the 24-year-old looked off the pace and never offered the same speed, movement and overall threat of his teammate.
The Reds’ attacking game looked far more one-dimensional and predictable without Sturridge around, and although he can sometimes be guilty of shooting a little too often, he would at least have tested Brad Guzan; something Liverpool barely managed all afternoon.
According to WhoScored, Sturridge has averaged 4.3 shots and 2.3 dribbles per game so far this season, outlining the constant danger he poses. He can make things happen without the help of his teammates.
Some comedown for #LFC after the high of hammering Spurs. Both Sturridge and Allen sorely missed. It was all far too easy for Villa.
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) September 13, 2014
The 25-year-old is fast, can beat a man, has quick feet and is a huge goal threat. The creative side of his game is also criminally underrated, with an ability to pick out an audacious pass.
Despite all these great attributes Sturridge is, for some bizarre reason, a player who is still not genuinely idolised on Merseyside. He has scored 36 goals in just 52 appearances for Liverpool since joining the club in January 2013, and his largely superb performances were a huge reason why Rodgers’ men finished second in the Premier League last season.
When Luis Suarez’s form dipped during the early part of this year it was Sturridge who stepped up to the plate, scoring in eight consecutive league games to reignite the Reds’ surprise title challenge. Imagine if Robbie Fowler or Suarez himself had achieved such a feat. They would have been lauded for weeks, and rightly so. That wasn’t the case with Sturridge.
There is no doubt that the England international is admired by many, but there is a nagging feeling that he is not rated highly enough. He is one of the best strikers in the Premier League, and has the natural talent to become one of the best in Europe.
Much of the post-match debate following the loss to Villa was about how big a loss Raheem Sterling was, not Sturridge. Although the 19-year-old is undeniably a wonderful talent with the world at his feet, is he really any more important than the former Chelsea man?
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) September 13, 2014
Perhaps it is Sturridge’s huge self-belief that rubs some people up the wrong way, or maybe his slightly questionable work ethic at times, but it still seems baffling that he’s not a true Reds hero yet. At the end of the day he scored more goals in his first 50 games for the club than Fowler, Suarez, Michael Owen and Fernando Torres. That is some feat.
It is unlikely that Sturridge will return to the side until the Merseyside derby at Anfield on 27th September, at the earliest, and Balotelli and the rest of the attacking unit have a big job ahead of them between now and then. In order for Sturridge not to be sorely missed they simply have to improve on their limp showing against Paul Lambert’s side.
It’s about time he is fully appreciated.