Whilst the start of the season has seen a lot of excitement and positivity surrounding Liverpool’s attacking threat, one question has remained: where does Daniel Sturridge fit? Alongside Divock Origi, the two out and out strikers have struggled to make an impact, playing second fiddle to Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho. Sturridge got another chance today though, despite failing to impress in defeat at Burnley, and lined up against reigning champions Leicester City as Philippe Coutinho took up a place on the bench, having returned from international duty with an illness on Thursday.
The England forward played in a more central role than he did at Turf Moor and was given much more freedom in a fluid front line as has been seen since the start of the season, with the three forwards interchanging in terms of roles and responsibilities. The role suits Sturridge, who has made it clear that he prefers to play centrally rather than out wide.
In a new look Anfield, Sturridge excelled, with some superb movement off the ball creating space to allow Roberto Firmino to open the scoring. In recent times that movement has been lacking from the former Chelsea striker’s game, leading to critics claiming that he has been lazy or lacking fitness as he fails to create opportunities for his teammates, but that was not the case against Leicester as he dragged Wes Morgan and Robert Huth across the Anfield turf.
Then, the 27-year-old generated another chance which turned into an assist thanks to a superb back heel assist to allow Sadio Mane to double Jurgen Klopp’s lead on the half hour mark. He again created another big chance minutes later as Roberto Firmino went close from a classy lay-off from Sturridge, and it became clear that the Londoner is not just a finisher, but showed signs of the chances which he created when he enjoyed his most successful spell of his career alongside Luis Suarez in the famous SAS combination of the 2013/14 season.
That doesn’t mean that Sturridge won’t take chances for himself, managing four shots on target in his 76 minute performance before being replaced by Coutinho, with another effort blocked on the edge of the box. Two of those efforts were created from his own individual play, creating chances with his trickery and turns as Leicester’s midfield struggled to keep up with not just the movement of Liverpool’s frontline, but with the speed of Sturridge’s footwork and ability.
However, despite all of his chances and shots, the only criticism could be leveled at the two big chances which fell the former City striker’s way and he failed to convert. On another day, a clinical Sturridge would have had at least two or three goals to his name and would have easily been going home with the man of the match award in his pocket.
That is the forward that Liverpool fans have been crying out for and missing as he has missed much of the last two seasons through various injury difficulties, but if Sturridge can find his role in this front line alongside Mane, Firmino and Coutinho, he could be as prolific as ever and fire Liverpool into contention this season.
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