With Sturridge out for two months, Liverpool’s forward options are paper thin…
Here’s why the injury to Daniel Sturridge could ruin the Reds’ excellent start to the season:
Neither of the two successful formations Liverpool have used this season are now deployable…
Prior to the Englishman’s injury, Brendan Rodgers had the kind of problem every manager dreams of: How do I play two of the best strikers in the league in the same team?
He decided to do exactly that, and originally deployed a wing-back formation, which enabled the ‘SAS’ tandem to work their magic up top. While the midfield was somewhat light-weight (there’s only so much running the 33-year-old Steven Gerrard and relatively immobile Lucas can do) the brilliance of Suarez and Sturridge was winning the Reds matches on its own.
From the moment Suarez returned from suspension, the two strikers scored 14 goals between them, five of which they made for each other.
When Brazilian magician Coutinho returned to full fitness, Brendan Rodgers accommodated again. He scrapped the wing-back formation, and played Coutinho in the no.10 role behind Suarez and Sturridge. It was devastatingly effective, and saw Liverpool thrash Fulham at home, with arguably their most accomplished performance of the season.
Now Sturridge is injured, Rodgers doesn’t have the sort of backup to bring in a forward to play alongside Suarez. As a result, he’ll have to revert to the more standard 4-3-3 formation he used against Hull City.
While Liverpool have proven they can win matches using this system, it doesn’t play to their strengths. The 4-3-3 favours sides with top-notch wingers and a striker who likes to remain central and spearhead the side.
Liverpool do not have either of these…
With this formation, Luis Suarez is totally isolated…
If you look at the Uruguayan’s career, he’s flourished more when he plays with a strike partner. At Ajax, Suarez worked in tandem with the ruthless Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and finished his final full season with over 50 goals.
At Liverpool, while Suarez has still looked top class when played on his own, it doesn’t suit his natural attributes. The 26-year-old likes coming deep for the ball, or drifting into channels and dribbling at the byline. he loves playing sharp ‘one-twos’, and using his strike partners movement to cleverly work himself space.
In the 4-3-3 formation Rodgers will now have to play, a striker like Olivier Giroud is ideal; someone who picks up the ball and holds it up, before heading back into the box to wait for service. Suarez is capable of so much more than this, so without a pivot to play off, his game is compromised, and so is far less effective.
Apart from Coutinho, Liverpool’s attacking players are very, very poor…
The Hull City defeat displayed just how polarised Liverpool’s squad is. While Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge are as good as anything in the league, Raheem Sterling, Victor Moses and Luis Alberto are mid-table footballers at best.
Suarez looked frustrated against the Tigers, and was given drab service from both Sterling and Moses out wide. As a result, he tried to do much by himself, and gave the ball away even more times than his below par wingers.
With Sturridge injured, the creative responsibility now lies very heavily on Coutinho’s shoulders. Despite his talent, this is a 21-year-old Brazilian who cannot yet speak strong English, and has been playing in the country for less than a year. On top of this, he’s suffering with niggling injuries himself…
When you look at the creative midfield options in Arsenal’s, Chelsea’s, Manchester City’s, Manchester United’s and even Tottenham’s squad, there really is no comparison with the untrusted and untested batch at Rodgers’ disposal.
With Sturridge, Suarez and Coutinho in the starting lineup the Reds could hold their own.
Now, they cannot.
Brendan Rodgers signed the wrong players in the summer…
As difficult as it is to criticise a manager who has done so well in 2013, his summer transfer policy is becoming increasingly questionable. Rodgers spent a combined £14m on Luis Alberto and Tiago Ilori; neither of who have made a Premier league start.
Would it not have been more intelligent to spend this money on an experienced backup striker?
Rodgers also shelled out £15m on Mamadou Sakho, but prefers to play Martin Skrtel (who was already at the club) and Kolo Toure, who arrived on a free transfer.
This is without even mentioning the hapless Iago Aspas.
In fact – for the £44m spent, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is the only player who has actively improved the first-team.
Liverpool fans will need to hope Rodgers has another transfer window like he did last January, when he snapped up Coutinho and Sturridge for under £20m. If he doesn’t, his top four ambitions will fade away, much like his side’s second-half performance against Hull City.
If Suarez and Coutinho can provide a consistent attacking impetus until January, Rodgers may be able to bring in reinforcements just in time. Until that point though, the Reds have six games that could define, and ultimately ruin their season.
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