Will Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp keep faith much longer with their talisman?
When news filtered through recently that Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge was set to be sidelined until the New Year after yet another injury, Reds supporters didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The initial reaction on Twitter; as per usual, saw a polarisation of opinion, with some sympathising with the 26-year-old and others simply fed up with Sturridge’s never-ending injury troubles. There were even calls for Jurgen Klopp to consider selling the striker in January, arguing that the former Chelsea and Manchester City man wasn’t worth the trouble.
To put it mildly, Sturridge has had a stop-start career since the summer of 2014. Whenever he has been fit, he has looked every bit as sharp as he did during the 2013/14 campaign, when he was in red-hot form throughout a memorable season for both him and Liverpool. The problem though, is that he has been available for selection all too rarely. Every time it looked as if Sturridge was over his injury problems, they would flare up again within only a handful of games and with each injury-hit spell, the patience of many Liverpool fans has worn increasingly thin. He began this season on the treatment table, came back for a brief spell as September turned into October, then missed another two months prior to a substitute appearance against Swansea and two goals in the Capital One Cup rout of Southampton. Then came the news earlier in the week that Sturridge was crocked once more. He was even called out in public by Klopp, who attempted to motivate the striker by challenging him to play through the pain. The brace at St Mary’s suggested that the manager’s words struck a chord with Sturridge, who has been accused in some quarters of being even more fragile mentally than physically.
Footballers are mostly thick-skinned beasts, who are unfazed by criticism from fans, media and coaches. The accusations that Sturridge is playing up his injuries though, is bound to have stuck in the craw of the England striker. It seems preposterous that a footballer would prefer to be injured than involved. After all, players routinely describe serious injuries as the lowest point of their career. Sturridge’s injury woes are certainly frustrating for Liverpool fans, but to suggest that he is exaggerating the impact of his injuries is out of order.
As for calls for him to be sold? Look at it this way: do Liverpool currently have a better striker? Christian Benteke has made a decent start to life at Anfield, but he has also been culpable of shocking misses and unacceptable no-shows. Divock Origi’s confidence has been boosted no end by his hat-trick in the 6-1 thumping of Southampton and also the injury-time rescue act at home to West Brom, but prior to that he looked every bit as profligate in front of goal as the hapless Mario Balotelli. Roberto Firmino meanwhile, has been a major disappointment in the most part, registering only one goal since joining Liverpool in the summer. Sturridge; who has barely featured, has still made a decisive impact when he has been active, scoring two vital goals in a nervy win over Aston Villa in September, as well as the quick-fire double at St Mary’s last week. Quite simply, no other striker at the club can boast the consistent cold-blooded instinct that Sturridge has demonstrated over the last three years. If Klopp was to listen to some naysayers and flog the man in the number 15 shirt, the other strikers at Anfield would need to show some rapid improvement. He might not be fit often, but when he is, Sturridge must be the go-to man up front for Liverpool.
What this alarming situation does lay bare though, is the Reds’ need for another top quality striker. A punt on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might be worth a shot, either in January or over the summer. However, until such time as that happens, Liverpool cannot afford to jettison Daniel Sturridge, no matter how injury-prone he may be. When he plays, he generally scores – and you can’t say that about any other striker in Liverpool colours at this moment.
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