By Cameron Hogwood
Following a crushing defeat to Manchester United on Saturday, Liverpool are in desperate need of a boost- making the imminent return of Daniel Sturridge more important than ever.
To say the wait for Sturridge to return from injury has been agonising is an understatement, as all Liverpool supporters will agree. Football fans would be foolish to look beyond him as Liverpool’s largest goal threat and his team need him more than ever.
His return to Melwood last week- after training alone all summer in America- comes as a huge lift to the Liverpool camp. Reds fans have not only missed his goals and attacking play, but also his personality and the positive atmosphere he creates in and around the team. He is a real asset to Brendan Rodgers’ plans and is capable of winning his team matches. While his return will inevitably come with the cliché that he is ‘like a new signing’, he really is like a new signing to Liverpool, having been such a key absentee for so long. The Anfield faithful will have everything crossed with the hope their star striker can reestablish the frightening form he displayed alongside Luis Suarez during that memorable 2013/2014 campaign. One certainty is that, after such a long time out, he will be raring to go.
With Daniel Sturridge, you get unpredictable and unorthodox attacking play in addition to a conventional and simple ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Ultimately, he brings excitement and energy to the football pitch, which Liverpool severely lack in without the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge- as reiterated by the painfully dull performance at Old Trafford at the weekend.
Think pace, think movement, think flair when you talk about what Daniel Sturridge can offer. His pace allows him to stretch opposition defences with explosive runs in behind, giving Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson plenty of opportunities to exercise their notably impressive forward passing. Not only does he worry teams with his speed and directness, he punishes them with his clinical finishing which, above all, is what his side have missed most from him. His confidence to run at players with the ball is hugely underrated in terms of how quickly it can influence those around him to inject greater belief and aggression into their play; his is capable of making those around him feel as though they can beat anyone and capable of getting the fans to their feet.
At the moment, Liverpool have nothing happening in behind the opposition defenders and nobody challenging the space beyond the backline. A defender won’t catch Benteke if he is given a yard or two in behind, but a defender will always fancy their chances when the Belgian attempts to get away from them having started in a touch tight marking position. Sturridge will drift throughout the space along the defensive line and will stay close to the final man before making his darting runs- he can provide the pace and intensity that Liverpool are lacking. The former Chelsea and Manchester City man is one of few players at the club that can receive the ball into his feet and act as technician as well as making a contribution with his movement in front of the ball.
Reuniting arguably Liverpool’s best players in Sturridge and Coutinho will be imperative to Liverpool’s chances this season. The Brazilian will benefit from greater activity in front of him while it will also be a psychological boost in terms of some of sharing some of the responsibility with Daniel Sturridge. In addition, the possible presence of Sturridge as a striker partner will help Christian Benteke concentrate on his hold up play and using his power more while also ensuring the former Aston Villa man is less isolated upfront.
Brendan Rodgers is hopeful the striker has put his injury problems behind him for now, despite many having fears that he could fall into the same trap as Radamel Falcao with regards to failing to rediscover his top form after a serious injury. The extent and length of his rehabilitation period, however, suggests Sturridge has approached his injury sensibly.
An in form and fully fit Daniel Sturridge can have a significant improvement on Liverpool’s season. Liverpool fans will be eager to see that famous dance move performed on a regular basis again.