It’s four years since Daniel Sturridge was lighting up the Premier League. Playing alongside Luis Suarez in the 2013/14 campaign the striker was nothing short of superb. He ended that campaign with 24 goals to his name as Liverpool came within touching distance of a Premier League title.
The intervening years have not been kind on Sturridge. He has managed to top ten goals in just one season since then. Injuries have consistently taken their toll. At Anfield, he is no longer first choice, the continuing excellence of Roberto Firmino and the partnership he has built with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane pushing Sturridge into a backup role. For most, he does not have a future at the club. Last season’s goalless loan spell with West Bromwich Albion felt like the beginning of the end of his time on Merseyside.
A shining performance in the 3-2 win over Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday may have turned that around. It went a long way to proving that the 29-year-old still has a big role to play for Liverpool.
To say that Sturridge was excellent against the French champions would be underselling it. This display was arguably his best in a red shirt since his shining displays of that 13/14 campaign. This was the Sturridge that Anfield remembers fondly. They still believe he has the ability to fight with Firmino for that starting role and he showed as much.
First, there was the endless running. Ask anyone what Firmino’s biggest strength is and they will tell you it is his ability to press. Not only that, the intelligence with which he does it. The Brazilian is often the catalyst for the Geggenpressing, pushing his team up the pitch and forcing mistakes from opponents. It is key to how Klopp wants his Liverpool team to play.
It allows the midfield to push up and join in, compacting the formation and turning over possession. Against PSG, Sturridge was everywhere, his heat map for the game showing a man who covered nearly every part of PSG’s half. Simply putting his performance down to running would be unfair because it overlooks his excellent link-up play. Like Firmino, Sturridge was involved in everything. Holding up the ball, linking with the midfield and combining with his fellow forward he was often too much for the PSG backline to deal with.
In the numbers, Sturridge topped the shots charts while he was the joint best Liverpool player when it came to key passes. An 89% passing accuracy is another impressive number. So too are his two dribbles, the same as Neymar and joint second highest in the game.
Of course, a striker is never happy if he is not on the score sheet and in that regard, Sturridge did not disappoint either. The forward has always had an eye for a goal and when fit, many consider among the best finishers in the league. His goal here was a demonstration that he has not lost his touch. It took smart movement and perfect timing to find himself in the ideal spot to head home Andy Robertson’s cross for the opener.
The Scottish international may believe his delivery made it simple for his teammate but there are plenty of players who would not have taken advantage. Sturridge’s knowledge and ability ensured he was. It was that knack that found him in a similar position to head home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross in the second half. This time around the ball did not end up in the net but the fact he was there should not be overlooked. It was more of the intelligent movement that separates the top strikers from the best.
The praise he received from his manager was well earned. This was a complete performance in all senses of the word. For Sturridge, it felt like a turning point after several years of half starts and disappointment.
He may not be likely to ever start ahead of Firmino, such is the Brazilian’s standing at Anfield, but that does not mean he does not have a role to play. The key question now is if he can remain fit enough to give himself a chance of doing so. If he can, then the future is looking brighter than it has in some time. This man of the match display against PSG showed that a fit Sturridge is a man who is worth something to Liverpool.
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