Sturridge-Sterling Partnership Can Propel Liverpool To Top Four

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Daniel Sturridge Liverpool
Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge

Sturridge made his long-awaited return to the Liverpool starting line-up against Tottenham and his contribution to Brendan Rodgers’ side’s 3-2 win over Spurs outlined a promising future for the Reds. The anticipation around Anfield was palpable, and the Liverpool number 15, on his return to the starting line-up didn’t disappoint.

Sturridge opened the season by showing his precision and finesse as a lone striker for the Reds, following the sale of Luis Suarez. Against Spurs the 25 year-old English forward’s hold-up play, creativity and understanding of space were top-notch against Spurs.

As a centre forward Sturridge’s forte lies in his pace and ability to run channels. It was clear against Spurs that Rodgers’ intention was to exploit Pochettino’s high defensive line. Against Spurs at Anfield, 17.7 percent of Liverpool’s passes were lofted, long balls over the shoulders of the back-four compared to their season’s average of 11 percent. Ironically, on the same day Louis van Gaal was forced to produce a four-page dossier defending his direct, ‘long-ball’ tactics.

On Tuesday evening against Spurs, Liverpool’s direct play was far from a reductive style of play. Rodgers’ system on the day highlighted Spurs’ defensive weakness, and used Sturridge’s pace and movement to exploit what looked like a very shaky Spurs back-four. The idea was to get it wide into the wing-backs and utilize the pace and power of the Reds attack to play around Sturridge’s intelligent movement.

For all of his good play there were a few areas where Sturridge struggled, a relatively poor first touch at times and improper weight of pass often letting him down in the build-up play. Those, however, can be attributed to a lack of sharpness after injury. Just like his introduction against West Ham, Sturridge’s contribution at Anfield on Tuesday night didnt just add his own quality to the Reds attack but also lifted the performances of those around him, with his sheer quality and experience of the role hugely important.

Thus showing just why all Liverpool supporters had been clamoring for his swift return for the last five months. With the former Chelsea and Manchester City striker leading the line, Liverpool look a near-finished article once again.

Raheem Sterling

Sterling liverpool
Raheem Sterling

When Danny Sturridge was out nursing his injuries, Raheem Sterling led the line for Rodgers and Liverpool after having tried several experiments involving the likes of Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini unsuccessfully.

Young Sterling had all of the raw qualities required to perform in the role of a centre-forward, and with every passing game he has slowly developed these raw attributes into becoming a progressive centre-forward option of a different ilk. Adding pace, trickery and directness to the centre-forward role, Sterling’s growth into the role eventually culminated in a seasoned all-round performance in the 2-0 home win over West Ham ahead of Sturridge’s introduction.

In the stands at Anfield on Tuesday, Sterling watched on as Sturridge took back to his centre-forward role in style. The 25 year old is undoubtedly a complete forward compared to young Sterling but the duo have a lot in common. Both drop deep to aid build-up and get a hold of the ball thus interchanging with the likes of Moreno, Markovic and Coutinho driving the Liverpool attack into the opposition defence with pace and precision.

The big difference between the duo is that Daniel Sturridge’s play is focused on the wide areas as he loves running off the shoulders of the centre-halves as seen evidently against West Ham. Sturridge focuses more towards the shoulders or channels of the penalty area thus emphasizing his vital influence to Liverpool’s system, which is paramount.

In terms of holding up play and keeping hold of the ball; comparatively Sturridge saw slightly more possession with 4.2 percent of the overall Liverpool effort of 51 percent against Spurs, while Sterling had 3.8 percent against West Ham of Liverpool’s 59.3 percent. Sterling’s performance against West Ham truly underlined his ability to play this role, but Sturridge’s semi-fit performance in the win over Spurs reiterates the importance that he resumes this role.

The New S-A-S ?

While it was pretty evident how rusty Sturridge was against Spurs, the fact that Liverpool finally had a genuine, consistent, threatening presence in the centre-forward role meant that Rodgers’ other attackers, particularly Markovic and Ibe, could thrive in the open spaces.

Sterling’s progression in the centre-forward role and his versatility over his short career deserves much credit, of course. However, Sturridge adds that extra something to the Liverpool attack; a more physical presence, and a more experienced attacking intelligence.

Liverpool’s top-four challenge seems to be finally kick-starting, and Daniel Sturridge has found himself perfectly placed to benefit after five months on the treatment table with a relishing partnership with Sterling waiting to vow the Anfield audience. The future looks bright for Liverpool.

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