Martin King discusses what Daniel Sturridge needs to do in order to make his way back into the Liverpool team.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.”
These words can easily sum up Daniel Sturridge’s Liverpool career over the past few weeks. The English striker is, once again, enduring a frustrating period at Anfield where it seems like every week presents a new problem. While his seemingly never-ending injuries have been the topic of debate for a long time, the past two weeks have seen fans, experts, and Sturridge himself offer contrasting opinions over the striker’s best position.
Liverpool played Burnley in their second outing of the Premier League season last week. One of the talking points from that 2-0 defeat at Turf Moor was Sturridge’s place on the right wing, where he eventually proved ineffective. Three days later, Sturridge featured in the Reds’ 5-0 thrashing of Burton Albion in the EFL Cup, contributing two goals, however, the former Chelsea man only made the headlines for insisting that he’s better suited in a centre-forward role. That, as well as his continued place on the bench for Liverpool’s clash with Tottenham.
Not to mention his continued place on the bench for Liverpool’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur has lead to a few media outlets suggesting that the number 15 is unhappy at Anfield – one of them even going as far as linking him with a move to Arsenal (thanks CaughtOffside).
Either way, it’s safe to say that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So, while Sturridge remains a Reds player, the question most likely to be on his mind is: what does he have to do to return to Jürgen Klopp’s starting eleven?
On Friday afternoon I returned home from a tiring day at school to watch the Premier League’s Football Today television show. One of the pundits on the panel, which was previewing the third weekend of league fixtures, was former England striker Ian Wright. The Arsenal legend offered his take on Sturridge’s situation, saying that football has evolved so much that versatility is now an important quality that every player should possess, not least the Liverpool forward.
I honestly agree with Wright. Sturridge needs to adapt his game to more than one position if he is to get back to playing regularly under boss Klopp. At the moment, the man standing ahead of Sturridge in the centre forward’s pecking order is Roberto Firmino. It’s been clear for some time that the Liverpool manager fancies the Brazilian, as he offers that relentless work ethic and versatility that the 49-year-old favours.
Sturridge may need to take a page out of his teammate’s book. Considering that he’s played as a right-winger for former club Chelsea, he can draw from that experience in order to play in the same position for his current side. At times, Sturridge is considered a selfish yet stylish player by observers and although that’s often worked well for the Reds, he will need to combine it with being a team player by improving on his work rate if he is to challenge Firmino.
However, if the 26-year-old does work on his versatility, he will need to understand that just because he starts on the right-wing doesn’t mean he will remain isolated there for an entire match. Firmino’s starting position in every game may be in the centre but over the course of 90 minutes the former Hoffenheim man tends to drift out wide as well as drop deep into midfield and in both positions, he has proved influential.
This means that Sturridge will, in some parts of the game, get his chance to shine in his preferred centre-forward role and it would do him the world of good if he takes this opportunity. The fact that Liverpool will likely struggle in attack without the wide presence of Sadio Mané means that Sturridge will have an opportunity to fill that gap but even with Mané in the side, the England international can still play, ensuring that Klopp’s side have two deadly wingers.
As always, transition isn’t easy and Sturridge will likely face more challenges in his attempts to convince Klopp that he’s still a capable starter, even in a different position. However, what will work to his advantage is the fact that more often than not, trying is often enough under the Reds boss.