Liverpool’s transfer business shows Rodgers will trust Sturridge as a long forward…
Last term, Liverpool fans and neutrals alike lauded the exceptional partnership of Daniel Sturridge and the Premier League’s best player Luis Suarez.
Together, they notched 52 top flight goals, finishing 1st and 2nd in the league goalscoring charts, and coming within two points of firing the Reds to a maiden Premier League title.
It wasn’t just that the pair both enjoyed fruitful seasons in front of goal though, it was their understanding and genuine partnership that made them especially brilliant.
On countless occasions they would play exciting one-twos in the opposition penalty box, that would invariably result in goals. They knew where one another would run, and despite the pair being natural goalscorers, they were incredibly unselfish when their teammate was better positioned.
In fact, Brendan Rodgers, aware of how good they were when paired as a front two, switched formations to accommodate the ‘SAS’, as the strike-force became known. Early on in the season, he used a 3-5-2 wingback formation, and towards the end of the campaign (and much more successfully) used a 4-3-1-2 diamond, with Raheem Sterling at its tip behind Suarez and Sturridge.
Now though, the maverick Uruguayan has completed a £75m move to Barcelona, leaving his old partner Sturridge as the main man at Anfield.
Liverpool’s summer business though indicates that they will not be bringing in a direct Luis Suarez replacement, probably because only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are of his level at this moment in time.
The Reds have snared Adam Lallana for £25m, who can play on the left or in attacking midfield, Lazar Markovic for £20m, who can play on the right or at no.10, ageing striker Rickie Lambert, surely as a backup or rotation option, and Emre Can – who will likely be used when captain Steven Gerrard needs a rest.
Rodgers has chosen to spend large money on technical, quick, creative midfielders, rather than lumping the cash on an out and out striker.
This shows that Liverpool could be reverting to the 4-2-3-1, or 4-3-3 Rodgers used when he first arrived at the club.
In both instances, Sturridge would surely act as the ‘no.9′, the sole pinnacle and focal point of the attack, rather than as part of an exciting duo.
As a lone centre-forward, Sturridge’s role at Liverpool will likely change…
Rather than drifting out freely to either wing, picking the ball up deep and running at defenders, Sturridge will need to be more disciplined – to maintain the shape of the team.
He will need to hold the ball up and bring the talented bunch of attacking midfielders into play, meaning his decision making (when to go on his own and when to link play) will need to excellent.
Here’s how Sturridge’s position could look on paper in an adapted formation:
If Lallana and Markovic adapt quickly, and Sterling continues his astronomic development, there’s no reason why this system wouldn’t work, and why Sturridge won’t have countless chances to feed off in 2014/15 in the absence of Suarez.
The position is by no means alien to the 24-year-old either. He played it this summer for England at the World Cup – scoring one goal against the Italians, and previously for Bolton Wanderers during a successful loan spell back in 2011. What’s more, the forward thrived in this role at the start of last season, when Suarez was still banned for biting Branislav’s Ivanovic.
In the first three matches of the season, Sturridge scored three winners.
His pace in behind, and his finishing ability means he has more than enough ability to perform this role to a high level once again, and he’ll need to if Liverpool are to challenge for the title.
When at Chelsea, Sturridge bemoaned the fact he wasn’t given the opportunities at centre-forward he felt his ability warranted – and Rodgers gave him the platform he demanded.
He’s already more than paid him back, but it now appears that Rodgers will entrust Sturridge with a truly pivotal role – leading Liverpool’s line on his own in the absence of Luis Suarez.