Jack Hallows believes even though he was superb at West Ham, Daniel Sturridge’s time at Liverpool is coming to an end.
I hate to say it because when he’s playing well, Daniel Sturridge is one of my favourite footballers to watch in the entirety of the Premier League. His finish at West Ham was just another reminder of his enduring class as he took Philippe Coutinho’s perfectly weighted pass in his stride, rounded Adrian with ease and tapped home.
That being said, however, it’s not his quality or his class that anyone’s ever doubted. It’s his fitness and one 90 minute showing is not enough proof that he’s going to turn a corner.
Reliable goalscorer but not a reliable presence
With 60 goals in 118 games for the Reds, there is no doubting that Daniel Sturridge is a class footballer. His ability to create something out of nothing and put the ball in the back of the net is second to none in the Reds’ current squad and his confidence on the ball when playing well often translates well to the rest of the attacking players lined up around him.
He’s also very good at creating chances for others. The 19 chances the Reds created against West Ham was their most since their visit to Sunderland on January 2nd. The common factor? They’re Daniel Sturridge’s only Premier League starts this calendar year. The forward has created 14 goalscoring chances in the league this season despite featuring heavily from the bench and in games such as the 0-0 draw against Southampton it’s been evident right from his first step onto the pitch that he’s a class above when on form.
However, the ever-present issue of his fitness still looms large. Sturridge has only managed 51 appearances across the last two seasons, starting just 29 of those. With Liverpool set to be competing on four fronts next season – League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Europe – Klopp will need a big – and readily available – squad to call upon across what’s going to be a very busy season.
Can Daniel Sturridge be trusted to shoulder a large part of the attacking burden next season without crumbling? Personally, I’m just not so sure. Even in Sturridge’s golden season at the club back in 2013/14, he didn’t manage to break the 30 league appearance barrier and the fact remains that he’s missed 68 of the Reds 114 League games played since August 2014. That’s a ridiculous 60% of the games we’ve played in the Premier League.
While his absence hasn’t been felt quite so keenly across large parts of Jürgen Klopp’s reign so far – Firmino has been superb as a false nine while this season has seen Mané, Coutinho and Lallana shoulder a bulk of the goalscoring burden brilliantly – the German simply cannot plan next season around Daniel Sturridge unless he somehow manages to factor in the striker missing a large number of games.
Klopp is a massive fan of continuity in his lineups and while it may not show over the course of this season’s fragmented selection choices, that has largely been down to necessity rather than choice.
Chance at a squad role?
There is also the fact that if the Reds do sign another wide attacker as they’re expected to this summer, that would likely complete the reduction of Daniel Sturridge entirely to a squad player role. Now, this might not seem so bad for some out there but there are two key reasons that this doesn’t work.
The first being that Sturridge is simply too good to be a benchwarmer and he himself knows it. Remember his face at Tottenham earlier this season when Divock Origi was picked instead of him as Klopp’s game-changing substitution effort? Sturridge is a very talented footballer and it makes no sense for him to stay at Liverpool only to receive limited playing time when he actually is fit. Him being an unused substitute seven times this season was almost unthinkable under Brendan Rodgers but now, with Klopp’s system, plan and ideals all seemingly falling into place piece by piece, Sturridge is on the fringes.
The second reasoning behind this not working simply comes down to affordability. If what we’ve heard in recent weeks is correct, then Daniel Sturridge is on a highly incentivised contract that sees him earn upwards of £150,000 a week when playing regular football. As nice as it would be to say we have a player worth £150k a week as a bench option, the club simply cannot afford to strengthen their squad this summer and keep Sturridge on in that capacity.
I always hate to admit it but we’re not Chelsea or Manchester United and with FSG in charge, we never will be. This is no dig at the Americans and I fully believe them when they say they will financially back Klopp to the hilt this summer, but they simply cannot provide the funds that some of the other top 6 clubs ‘sugar daddy’ owners can. Jose Mourinho can complain about his squad all he wants but when his ‘second string XI’ contains players like Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling, it’s very hard to feel sorry for him.
Time to say goodbye
Getting back to the topic on hand, it simply just makes sense for both parties if Sturridge does get sold on this summer. He’s a fantastic player and if he can keep himself fit then he deserves the chance to play 90 minutes week in, week out and serve as the main man at a club that really needs him and push himself into contention for a spot in England’s World Cup squad next year. At Liverpool, he just won’t get that.
Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi are undoubtedly ahead of Sturridge in Klopp’s mind due to the perception of them being a more natural ‘fit’ to the German’s preferred high-tempo, pressing system. Add to this the fact that Danny Ings could return in the summer and that Klopp will likely be looking to strengthen his attacking ranks with another wide player and potentially another striker and really, it makes it hard to see where Sturridge fits in.
I love Sturridge, I do and to see that celebration again in a game where he really stepped up and proved he’s still a class act had me made up for him. For me though, it’s a case of getting him on the park against ‘Boro, let him sign off at Anfield hopefully with a goal or two and the knowledge that he got this club over the final hurdle into Champions League football and then let him go.