Can Daniel Sturridge justify a change in system for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool?
In EFL Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday night, Daniel Sturridge showed Jurgen Klopp exactly what he was missing out on by leaving the England international on the bench. With two goals to show for his man of the match display, Sturridge proved his point as he seeks to turn his season around and revive his Anfield career, having managed just 464 minutes of action this season, with only 348 coming in the Premier League and only five starts from a possible 12.
There have been question marks over whether or not the 27-year-old has a future at the club after his poor displays have shown that he cannot fit well into the system of an interchangeable front three that the German manager has preferred to date this season. Whilst he has scored four in the EFL Cup this season, he is still searching for his first league goal and showed in defeat at Burnley that he is wasted playing in a wide role as part of the front three. That automatically makes it hard for the former Chelsea man to justify his place, as part of the role of the central striker, as shown by Roberto Firmino, has been to drift wide and swap positions with others.
When he has been selected to play centrally, he hasn’t done much to impress either. Assists against Leicester City and Hull City may mask over his ineffective displays where he had little influence, and in other games it can easily be forgotten that he was on the pitch, such as at Swansea City. With his best performances coming in a front two, as he showed against Spurs, questions will be asked as to whether Klopp should change to adapt and make room for him.
Sturridge clearly has superb finishing ability and will score goals for fun given the opportunity, he averages a goal every 1.74 games since having joined the club, which would suggest that he has all the capabilities to be the man to fire Liverpool into real title contention. Whilst Roberto Firmino has played well in a central role, he lacks the natural strikers’ instinct that a player like Sturridge possesses, as he made very clear with his first goal of the night past Michel Vorm.
That said, he has had a number of injury concerns over the years and you have to go back to the 2013/14 season to find a campaign where he made more than 14 Premier League appearances, making it difficult for Klopp to even consider justifying a change in style to suit a man who may not remain fit for long enough to make it effective. Chopping and changing tactical formations and set-ups are something that Klopp begrudged doing last season when he was forced to rotate and change due to league cup, Europa League and Premier League commitments, so it seems unlikely that he would do so again out of choice.
The other important factor is that there is nothing wrong with how Liverpool are playing. Sadio Mane, Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have all been excelling in the new system, firing the side to the top end of the table and only failing to score in one game to date this campaign, ironically Sturridge’s first start of the season at Burnley. To change such a successful and effective system would be ludicrous, particularly as it is clearly what Klopp sees as a structure for the side in the long-term future.
Perhaps the greater concern for Liverpool fans is not just the issue of Sturridge, but the impact that Jurgen Klopp’s current system is having on other players in the squad. Whilst Sturridge is a superb player with a great track record, it would be even more devastating to lose the likes of Danny Ings or Divock Origi due to the same problem with lack of game time. Whilst Sturridge has managed 348 minutes in the Premier League, Origi only has 108 and Ings is yet to manage even one. Losing players with such potential, as Origi showed last season, would be a significant blow to the Liverpool transfer policy and would be a questionable move going forwards if Klopp does not remain at the club and sticking with the system going forwards.
The most attractive option for all involved seems to be the sale of Daniel Sturridge. That would not only see a large income for the Reds which could be reinvested to add greater depth to the current wide options of Mane and Coutinho, something which would clearly be needed if the club do qualify for the Champions League next season. It would also allow Klopp to give Origi and Ings more of a role to play from the bench and remove an unhappy player from the dressing room. Whilst Reds fans would be sad to see him go, Sturridge’s departure seems a sad and inevitable truth.
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