Jack Hallows takes a look at Daniel Sturridge’s 2016/17 campaign and whether the striker has done enough to earn a spot in Jürgen Klopp’s plans for next season.
The news that Daniel Sturridge would miss the first game of the season at the Emirates with a hip injury was a case of deja vu for Liverpool supporters. His injury record over the last three seasons has meant that we’re more likely to bat an eyelid when he actually does play rather than when he misses out.
Sturridge would start the next game against Burnley, struggling for 64 laboured minutes in the right wing role before being withdrawn for Divock Origi. The Englishman did, however, actually manage to feature in each of the next six Premier League fixtures, assisting Sadio Mané’s first Anfield goal against Leicester and winning a penalty to help complete a 5-1 destruction of Hull.
However, as ever is the case with Daniel Sturridge, he would suffer another run of ‘bad luck’ with injuries that limited him to just seven appearances in the next 16 Premier League games the Reds played – starting only the one.
Credit to him, when he took the field he made things happen. It was his shot that rebounded off the post for Mané to tap in the winner against Everton while he was on the score sheet to cap off a 4-1 victory at home to Hull and help spare the Reds blushes away to Sunderland. It was again simply a case of actually getting him onto the pitch.
It didn’t get any easier for Jürgen Klopp to do just that either. Following a 24-minute cameo against Hull, Sturridge would then break down once again, missing eight of the Reds next 11 games and playing just 39 minutes across the three games in which he actually surfaced from the bench.
The striker did, however, manage to finish the season in a strong manner, scoring the first goal against West Ham and registering an assist on the final day as the Reds secured Champions League football with a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough. He would finish the season with a total of 20 Premier League games but only seven starts and an average of just 39 minutes per appearance.
An unreliable threat?
No one is going to doubt the fact that Sturridge makes things happen when he plays. He still managed to contribute seven goals in all competitions this season despite having a fragmented season hit by injuries and a lack of minutes. However, is it enough to justify keeping him at Liverpool and potentially taking the place of a durable, world-class centre-forward in the squad?
The main argument for Sturridge leaving is that he simply doesn’t fit Jürgen Klopp’s preferred 4-3-3 system. Sturridge is not a false nine and does not possess the same work rate or off the ball game intelligence as someone like Roberto Firmino does. He’s a classic centre-forward who likes to play off the shoulder, move across the back line to manipulate space and most importantly, thrives on having a strike partner.
When the Reds played a 4-4-2 diamond with Origi and Sturridge up top this season the pair looked a completely different animal. Sturridge scored three goals in these three games and provided an assist while Origi was also on the score sheet against West Ham.
Sturridge could very well be kept in the squad for games against opposition like Hull, Burnley, West Ham and Sunderland who all took points off the Reds this season by sitting deep but the question still remains. Why not just buy a striker capable of doing that who is also going to give you an option across more than just 50% of the season?
It’s been a poor season from Sturridge even if he did finish it strongly. There were glimpses of the striker we saw across a brilliant 18 month period back when he first signed for the club but it’s become clear that while he’s still got the quality, he’s not got the durability.
Next season the Reds will be competing across four competitions and will likely play around 60 fixtures and they simply can’t afford to be without one of their best players for a large percentage of that.
I love Daniel Sturridge but for me, he should move somewhere that can make him the main man if he maintains his fitness and his goal against West Ham should be a perfect send off.