Demetri Smith explains how Daniel Sturridge is playing himself into Jürgen Klopp’s plans for the 2018/19 Premier League season.
Coming off a 3-1 defeat against Borussia Dortmund in the International Champions Cup, the pessimists will be out in full force but one obvious positive from the defeat was the 45-minute cameo from Liverpool’s forgotten man, Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge rolled back the years linking up consistently with Liverpool’s new number eight, Naby Keita and this upsurge in form during pre-season has led many to believe, myself included, that Sturridge can become an influential figure on Merseyside once again.
Coming into pre-season, the majority of Liverpool fans, and maybe even Daniel himself, believed that he would be sold and the fan favourite’s five year stay with the Reds would come to an end.
Instead, a more determined, patient and resolute man has reported for pre-season with a spring in his step, with some of his play giving me flashbacks to the 2013/14 season where he formed the most formidable duo in world football at the time with former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.
This feeling of nostalgia combined heavily with the lacklustre performances of Dominic Solanke and Divock Origi especially has paved the way for Sturridge’s quiet but permanent return to the Liverpool set up.
Jürgen Klopp himself has seemed to have a change of heart and when he was asked about Sturridge’s future after a 0-0 draw with Bury he replied: “I always said there is a future. It’s about what we do in the moment.”
This may only be because of the disappointing performances of the aforementioned strikers but Sturridge is here to stay. Saying this, his role is unclear and with the transfer window still open it is hard to gauge how integral he will be to Klopp’s plans.
Right now, he is the second choice striker behind Roberto Firmino and due to his World Cup involvement, Studge could be lining up against West Ham come the beginning of the new Premier League season.
I do still believe that when everyone is fit, he will not be in the starting XI due to Klopp’s style of play but I also believe that his flair, vision and technical ability would be invaluable off the bench over the course of the season.
Playing him next to Firmino for example, is a viable option. Sturridge loves to drop off and interchange with another striker and along with Firmino you have two strikers that are able to do that and both have the footballing IQ to know where they should be in relation to where their strike partner is and for me, this would be the most effective way to use Sturridge.
He does not have the physicality or prowess to lead the line alone and whether it is an inside forward like Mo Salah or more of a typical striker like Firmino, he needs someone to bounce off and play quick passing moves with.
However, all that can be gathered from the last few games is that he is ready for a more prominent role under Klopp. With Danny Ings set to be sold, Klopp needs Sturridge and Sturridge needs Klopp.
This is his last chance at a big club after stints at Chelsea and Manchester City and Klopp needs to deliver trophies to a club that has finally decided to acclimatise to the era and spend big in the hope that success will follow.
If Daniel Sturridge can help that quest for trophies and extend his stay at the club even by only one more year, then I am all for it.