Caislin Boyle takes a look at which Liverpool forwards impressed on the Reds’ tour of the United States and who has staked a claim to play a big part in Klopp’s plans for the 2018/19 season.
On July 19th, I wrote about Roberto Firmino’s absence from the US tour and how that presented an opportunity for the other strikers at the club.
Just over weeks later and the Reds are in France, with their flamboyant Brazilian firmly in tow. Bobby is back and ready to reclaim his place at the head of the Liverpool attack but who helped their case in his absence and who put further nails in their Liverpool coffin?
There can be no other starting place – Daniel Sturridge.
After 6 months in the footballing wilderness of the Hawthorns, Sturridge has returned from relegated West Brom with more than a new outlook. His previously fragile body appears to have developed a sterner resolve. This coupled with his natural ability, means he fulfils the often-cited cliché of being ‘like a new signing’.
Of the strikers that went on the American tour, Sturridge (by far) emerged with the most credit. He featured in all three games, which goes some way toward dispelling fears regarding his injury record. He looked lively and hungry in all three games, which goes some way toward dispelling fears regarding his desire.
Crucially, Sturridge looked capable of scoring in all three games and duly did so against Manchester United. The ability to put the ball in the net is the one aspect of Sturridge’s game that has never induced fear. When fit and in the right frame of mind, Daniel can be prolific.
Such have been his levels of performance that Jürgen Klopp is set to give Sturridge another chance, after labelling him a “decisive” player. With the capacity to recruit should Klopp so wish, Sturridge ought to be hugely flattered by the show of faith. Whether he can repay it over a sustained period remains to be seen, but what is unequivocal is that Sturridge has seized upon the opportunity given.
The same cannot be said of the other two strikers on the trip; Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke.
Regarding the former, I previously wrote that I didn’t believe Origi to be capable of the performances required to convince Klopp that he is of the requisite level. What unfolded on the American tour entirely vindicated that stance.
He was so abject in Charlotte that he didn’t feature in the latter two games against the Manchester clubs. In 45 minutes against Dortmund, he recorded the lowest passing accuracy and touches; 62.5% and 12 respectively.
By contrast, the team averaged a pass completion rate of 86.2% in the same game. The writing is on the wall for Divock, with the only question remaining surrounding the mooted £27million fee.
I said that Solanke needed a good pre-season to match that of last year, where he scored 3 goals. Solanke’s tour has been a mixed bag; he hasn’t scored, but has been consistently involved and occasionally threatening.
Against Manchester City Solanke had a goal ruled out for offside and won the last-minute penalty from which Sadio Mané got the winner. He played 65 minutes against Manchester United in a convincing win.
Notably, Solanke was deployed alongside Mané and Mo Salah in both games, with this decision indicative of intent to do so this season.
It’s telling that Klopp elected to pay Solanke alongside our superstars. With all that considered, Solanke did not capitalise on Firmino’s absence as effectively as he could have. Yet he did demonstrate that he is worth persevering with, for one more season at least.
On a tour where the gauntlet was thrown down to our strikers, only Daniel Sturridge truly rose to the occasion. He has almost entirely settled the dispute as to who should play back-up to Bobby.
Should we not enter the market again, my assumption is that Sturridge will be back-up striker, with Solanke there to cover for any injuries. For those clamouring for Solanke to go on loan, I would advise caution – Sturridge has undoubtedly shown his worth, but one injury-free summer does not entirely dispel fears as to his injury record.
Solanke should be kept for this reason, as well as to learn from the two quality strikers already at the club. Origi, for his part, should be sold to the highest bidder.
Bobby Firmino has reinforced his status as Liverpool’s first-choice striker without setting foot in America. Yet what is clear is that Daniel Sturridge took the opportunity to be his trusty lieutenant, with Dominic Solanke the raw apprentice. Those three options should see us right for the season.