Daniel Sturridge has picked up yet another injury, ruling him out of action for a further six weeks. He last featured for Liverpool on the 31st August against Tottenham, meaning that he has only three appearances to his name this season. And yet his one goal on the opening day against Southampton is still more than any of our other strikers have managed since. It’s even more than they’ve all managed combined.
So there’s no doubt that we’re missing him. As well as providing his own share of goals, it would be fair to assume that Mario Balotelli would have had a better start to his LFC career if he had been lining up alongside Sturridge instead of in place of him. The likes of Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana will also be missing the movement and pace he offers for them to supply and create for, and Raheem Sterling would benefit from having him there to take some of the pressure off him.
Along with the sale of Luis Suarez, we’ve lost the two top goal scorers from last season. That would be a big blow for any team. But while it is an explanation for our lack of goals so far this year, it’s not an excuse for our poor form.
Even if Suarez had stayed, and Sturridge remained fit, it would still have been a priority to bring in a top striker or two over the summer. With the squad we had at the start of the transfer window, we were looking at Iago Aspas or Fabio Borini as the replacement for either of our SAS duo if they became unavailable for whatever reason. With more games to come with the Champions League, we needed more depth. We needed to be able to take a striker out of the side and replace him someone with as small a drop in quality as possible. Because our success last year was all about the confidence generated through having free-scoring strikers in the team who were as clinical as they come.
Early in the summer it became clear that Suarez would be leaving. Which, whether it happened or not, should have been an eventuality we had been preparing for for months. We should have thoroughly scouted potential replacements for the Uruguayan, and have a good idea of who our number one target was. That should have included considering the possibility that one or two of them might not be interest in joining, as seemed to be the case with Alexis Sanchez.
What did happen, was we signed Rickie Lambert. A player who would offer something different to what we had, but on a quality level wasn’t all that much better than Aspas and Borini, who had been decided weren’t good enough. He certainly wasn’t in the top bracket level of player we needed to be looking at, regardless as to whether he was intended as a first teamer or backup option.
The argument was that Daniel Sturridge would be the main man up front, Rickie Lambert would be the option off the bench, and that there was still likely another big-name striker to be signed. But as a club, we needed to look at the situation logically, and realise that should Sturridge get injured, which we knew was likely, we were putting an awful lot of pressure on whoever this new signing would be.
That chosen man turned out to be Mario Balotelli. A player who the manager had ruled out signing just a month prior to that, and who he later referred to as a ‘calculated risk’. We were pinning our season’s hopes on a calculated risk, and what’s so frustrating, is that we obviously knew it was a big gamble.
If Suarez was still an LFC player at the end of the transfer window, and Sturridge was looking fighting fit and raring to go, we could probably have afforded to have a calculated risk in the squad. Choosing either Balotelli or Aspas/Borini/Lambert to come off the bench is a bit of a no brainer. Even if he had started as poorly as he has in reality, his reputation alone adds that bit of fear/nerves to defenders.
But Suarez was over in Barcelona, and it’s common knowledge that Sturridge is a very injury prone player. We needed more, and with Champions League football to offer and a substantial transfer budget, we should have got more. Of course there’s no definite way to be sure of who will succeed, but we didn’t even really give ourselves a chance.
Jackson Martinez, Alexandre Lacazette, Paco Alcacer, Son Heung-Min, Seydou Doumbia, Wissam Ben Yedder. There were dozens of good options available who would have been worth taking a shot on. If they didn’t work out either, it would just have been bad luck. But at least we would have been pro-active and given ourselves the best possible chance at having a good season. Instead we’ve got Sturridge injured, Balotelli struggling, Lambert barely getting a look-in, and Borini who we tried to sell. January may be a chance to amend things, but as it stands I think we’re paying the price for not accounting for Sturridge getting injured; an occurrence that everyone and their mother could have seen coming.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)