Daniel Sturridge: Liverpool’s Missing Piece?

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Liverpool fans have become restless, and rightly so, with their beloved club’s much maligned ventures into the transfer market ever since the two separate American groups took charge at the Merseyside outfit. When the two American business tycoons Tom Hicks and George Gillett took over at Anfield, there was much reason for Liverpool fans to look forward to the future, as a big money takeover would be regarded as key in their quest for Premier League glory. In 2007 If you told Liverpool fans they would end the 2011/2012 season in 8th place, and the season prior to that in 6th, they would almost be in stitches, in disbelief of what would have been regarded as an outrageous statement to say the least at that time. After finishing 2nd in the 2008/2009 campaign, it looked as if Liverpool were finally within a spitting distance of the world’s most coveted, sought after domestic title. That summer Liverpool let two of their most influential players leave the club, although the moves were not in vein. The deep-lying midfield maestro that was Xabi Alonso moved onto bigger and better things at Real Madrid, while midfield-anchor Javier Mascherano followed his former compatriot to Spain, only to join Catalan side FC Barcelona. These two moves angered the Anfield faithful hugely, and Liverpool soon found themselves lost without the two, finishing a measly 6th that following season in the Premier League. Once FSG took over, everyone assumed things would instantaneously change. They didn’t. Kenny Dalglish made a couple costly errors in the transfer market, but was ill-advised by Ian Ayre and Damien Comolli in his pursuit of home-grown, young talented players. Hundreds of millions have gone to waste due to a few poor buys from Liverpool, and now FSG are cutting their expenditure, leaving Liverpool out in the cold, with almost no chance of buying the world’s top players.

The above has typified Liverpool’s problems in the transfer market in the last 5 years or so, as they are now a team infamous for buying over-priced home-grown talent. Andy Carroll cost £35 million from Newcastle on transfer deadline day in 2011, while Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing’s 2011 summer moves to Mersyside cost a combined £36 million. All players have been deemed flops, although Henderson is only 22, and has showed vast improvements to his all-round game this season so far. Daniel Sturridge has now followed in the footsteps of fellow England internationals (the three above) by completing a reported £12 million move to the Reds. He is already being touted for failure, for whatever reason. He hasn’t even played a game, and numerous people have slated the purchase of the Chelsea wide-man. But Sturridge, contrary to popular belief, looks to be a good buy for Liverpool, as he boasts a skillset that Brendan Rodgers will be more than happy to embrace. The former Man City man has bags of pace, packaged with tidy footwork and a finish to match, although his avaricious dribbling can leave fans and comrades reeling. The pacey striker-cum-winger certainly has an eye for goal, although it takes over too much at times.

The England international was snatched up by Chelsea from Manchester City for what turned out to be £6 million well spent. After failing to break into Chelsea’s first team, he was quickly shipped out to Bolton on loan in the season of 2010/2011, where he enjoyed an immensely fruitful time at the club, netting 8 times in 12 Premier League appearances. He finished his Bolton stint in a less than fashionable manner, grabbing himself an early bath in the last game of the season, coincidentally against his old club Manchester City. But receiving this red card is all part of the learning curve for a young player. After returning to Chelsea the following summer, and with many a pundit raving about the young talent, the Pensioners looked to have a real quality player on their hands, he just needed to be nurtured. And the introduction of Andre Villas Boas to Chelsea meant Sturridge would finally get his long-awaited chance in the spotlight. With Torres playing well below his usually sky-high standards, Sturridge was immediately thrown in at the deep end. After serving his three game suspension at the beginning of the new 2011/2012 season, Sturridge was raring to go. And when given the nod to start against Sunderland in his first game back from suspension, he did not disappoint. Sturridge scored an audacious back-heel in this fixture, and in doing so showed why AVB picked him ahead of Torres. The Englishman then went on to score 11 times in 30 appearances that season, along with 5 assists. Sturridge managed to be involved in more than 1 goal every 2 games. That’s a solid stat to exhibit considering he played with a Chelsea side who struggled in the league, finishing 6th. After AVB was sacked, it seemed to have a ripple effect on Sturridge, as he felt that Villas Boas held a confidence in him that no other manager has done so far in his career, apart from Owen Coyle at Bolton of course. Once Di Matteo took charge, Sturridge never got going, much to his dismay.

Adept at playing as a striker, or as a right winger, Sturridge sports versatility, something that will surely add to Liverpool’s lack of options in the attacking department. Although he does not track back as much as Rodgers would like, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Suarez regularly has been starved of support numerous times this season. Sturridge also has a small bit of Champions League experience, which Liverpool’s squad are slightly lacking. All in all, Sturridge should contribute to the Reds’ push for 4th place, chipping in with a couple goals and assists along the way. In theory, he should contribute to Suarez’ cause, as they are similar players in terms of style. Both selfish, both skillful, and both with a fine finish to match. After all, most Premier League defenders would not be relishing the challenge of coming up against a frontline such as Sterling, Suarez and Sturridge. What Liverpool have lacked thus far in their campaign has been a second clinical finisher, and Sturridge could prove to be Liverpool’s answer to this ongoing problem.

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