WIND back to the first day of May — when Daniel Sturridge hadn’t appeared for Liverpool since the Reds’ defeat at Hull City in February — and few would have tipped him to be part of Jürgen Klopp’s plans for next season.
That there would be a parting of ways come the summer seemed to be the general consensus — with Klopp said to be frustrated with player and player frustrated with Klopp.
Just 144 minutes of Liverpool action later, made up of four substitute appearances and 87 minutes versus West Ham on Sunday, and the pendulum of popular opinion appears to be swinging in a different direction.
Can manager and player now picture a bright future together? Are the wriggly arms set to be a key part of Liverpool’s best moments in 2017-18?
It appears every Red has an opinion on it and at The Anfield Wrap it’s no different. Here, JOSH SEXTON argues Daniel Sturridge should stay at Anfield, while GARETH ROBERTS thinks the striker’s days are numbered at Liverpool.
Who do agree with? Let us know below.
DANIEL Sturridge’s performance against West Ham was the icing on the cake after a series of promising cameo appearances since his latest return to fitness.
A well-taken goal off the back of a show of great anticipation to allow Philippe Coutinho to thread the ball between the Hammers’ back three was the highlight of a display which demonstrated all the best qualities of Sturridge.
A lot is made of his loss of pace, but the presence of mind he showed to get in behind defences is a quality possessed only by strikers who have mastered their trade.
No Liverpool supporter will doubt Sturridge’s ability. The offer of a fully-fit Sturridge heading into next season alongside Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is a mouth-watering prospect. The issue has almost always been keeping him fit.
The suggestions about his attitude and lack of application in a red shirt have remained baseless, barring half-shouts off the back of Jürgen Klopp’s advice about the difference between ‘pain’ and ‘serious pain’. Klopp clearly wants what is best for Sturridge as well as what is best for the club.
Sturridge is a player good enough to be dining at Europe’s top table. A home win over Middlesbrough guarantees that Liverpool will be able to offer that next season. On the club’s part, players of Sturridge’s ability don’t come along often. His goalscoring record at the club speaks for itself — 60 goals in 118 games. To replace that would set the Reds back substantially, and even then there don’t seem to be many players of that ilk around who the club could realistically attract.
The best way forward for both parties would be an ultimatum of sorts. Klopp could sit down with Sturridge prior to pre-season and make it clear that he has until January to prove his fitness and make some form of telling contribution to a Liverpool side that will have to be set up to fight on four fronts, otherwise they will look to sell him on their own terms.
From the club’s point of view, they would have a world-class striker with a point to prove and the motivation of being able to participate in the Champions League if he can remain fit. If he can’t, they will be able to cash in, if they believe he’s worth a reported £40million his value is hardly going to fall off a cliff between the summer transfer window and January.
People will question whether Sturridge would be happy to compete for places and have to deal with not regularly starting games.
But he surely owes it to the club to give it one last shot. Liverpool has stuck by him through some of the lowest points of his career injury-wise.
Now, he could play a part in helping Liverpool achieve their targets – in the Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and hopefully the Champions League.
He also has two years left of a lucrative four-year contract. What other club is offering him that deal and that opportunity? And wouldn’t it just be a sorry state of affairs to see a peak-age Sturridge performing at another Premier League club?
We spoke about Daniel Sturridge’s future in our main FREE show this week, here’s a clip to give you a taste:
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) May 16, 2017
DANIEL Sturridge was fantastic versus West Ham.
From early on it was clear he was at it: intelligent runs, finding space, keeping possession and bollocking team-mates for not releasing the ball quick enough.
He looked like he was out to prove a point.
Then came the stuff that matters: an expertly-taken goal and a crucial part in another one that left Aaron Cresswell for dead.
When Sturridge latched on to Philippe Coutinho’s perfectly weighted through ball there was never a doubt he’d put it in the net. You wouldn’t want any other player in red on the end of that chance.
The 27-year-old is a top-class goalscorer, a difference-maker, a match-winner – none of this is news. A look at his goal-scoring record for Liverpool tells you all you need to know about his finishing ability – at 60 goals in 118 appearances it’s better than one in two; a phenomenal ratio.
As we know all too well though, the problem is getting Sturridge on the pitch regularly. Since he banged in 21 goals in 2013-14, he has started just 24 of Liverpool’s 113 Premier League games.
How do you keep him fit? How do you stop his body failing him? It’s frustrating for us, frustrating for him, but ultimately Liverpool have to deal in hard facts.
It became clear that Jürgen Klopp felt he couldn’t trust the forward’s fitness and he created a system that allowed Liverpool to win games and pick up points minus the craft of one England’s finest goal-scorers.
Whereas Klopp’s predecessor Brendan Rodgers would repeatedly bemoan his absence, the German ensured the Reds are no longer reliant on Sturridge.
It’s a situation unlikely to change. Sunday’s performance was superb – a demonstration of all the good things that Sturridge can do. But over the course of a season that could stretch to 50 or 60 games next season, can Klopp rely on him to be available for the majority of those matches? Stats and history say no.
Sturridge has two years left on his contract, reportedly worth £150,000-a-week. This season he has played in 19 of Liverpool’s 37 Premier League games. Whether through fitness, form or being out of favour, when crunching the numbers do they add up?
A return of seven goals, just three in the league, is a travesty in statistics for a man of Sturridge’s talent.
And with slots for £150,000-a-week players presumably at a premium, can Liverpool afford to keep Sturridge on the books as a bit-part player?
Further, does Sturridge want to stick around knowing he isn’t first choice?
Sturridge has been at his best when all around him is set up to suit, as it was at West Ham. But the tactics on show in London represented a departure for Klopp. With Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane fit, does Sturridge get a look-in?
Much has been made of his powers being on the wane, his once explosive pace not being as evident. Yet Sturridge showed versus West Ham that he is still a potent threat.
The smart money, sadly, is on a parting of ways. Sturridge must crave regular football. He likes to be the main man. He deserves to be. And surely a club out there is willing to make him just that.
The likely alternative – a season of frustration, a season often watching from the sidelines – surely doesn’t hold much appeal for a man who loves to score, loves to win and loves to do it in style.