Opinion

With a tear in my eye, farewell to Daniel Sturridge

Full disclosure, if you are not a fan of “Studge” then stop reading. This is all about the man who wears the number 15. Daniel’s time at Liverpool has certainly had it’s roller-coaster moments. That is an understatement. When Jürgen Klopp took over on the touch line for The Reds in the fall of 2015, Sturridge was on borrowed time at LFC from that day going forward. It was a marriage doomed to fail from the onset.

Danny will always be remembered for that one memorable season (2013-14) when he and Luis Suarez were the most dangerous goal-scoring one-two punch on the continent. Unfortunately for Sturridge, his fantastic season was overshadowed by the team’s failure to secure their first Premier League title during the final match days of the campaign. Shortly thereafter, in the summer of 2014, Suarez would depart Anfield. The scoring burden at the forward position was now primarily left to Daniel.

The unstoppable duo of Suarez and Sturridge

The 2014-15 season was the beginning of Sturridge’s major injury issues. He appeared in only 12 of 38 Premier League contests, scoring a mere four goals. Little did anyone know at the time that this would turn into a chronic issue for the player that would ultimately seal his departure from the club three years later. Sturridge’s absence for most of 2014-15 certainly did not help Liverpool in it’s return to the Champions League. The club would miss club football’s most prestigious competition the following season as The Reds failed to secure a top four finish domestically.

Sturridge had a slight “return to form” during the 2015-16 campaign, however, the man who would become the face of Liverpool FC, Jürgen Klopp, would soon alter Liverpool’s entire identity. So too would Daniel Sturridge’s role in the squad be forever changed. The two most significant differences from Brendan Rodgers to Jürgen Klopp was the introduction of “Heavy Metal football” and “Gegenpressing”. This style of football was not suited for Sturridge’s skill set.

Daniel was a pacey forward who was absolutely clinical in front of goal. By the time Klopp came to Anfield Sturridge’s injuries were already beginning to take their toll. His pace was on the decline, and though still reliable inside the box, finding space and creating clear cut chances became more scarce. His inability, or unwillingness to relentlessly press the opponent signaled the end of Klopp selecting Sturridge to feature at the centre-forward position for his Liverpool.

“Kloppo” would instead begin to favor newly-transferred forward Roberto Firmino who came to Anfield from Hoffenheim in the summer of 2015. Much more familiar with the pressing-syle of football in the Bundesliga, Firmino became Klopp’s first-choice centre-forward by the end of the 2015-16 campaign. Despite the change in system from Rodgers to Klopp and Sturridge’s poor fit within it, “Studge” was still able to top the team for goals scored in all competitions in 2015-16 (13). Firmino however, had already overtaken Daniel in Premier League starts as well as league goals scored.

2016-17 would mark the third consecutive injury-plagued campaign for Daniel as the transfer rumours began to surface. Every part of his body had seemingly suffered damage by this point as he fell further out of Klopp’s good graces and as a contributing member of the squad. By the spring of 2017, it was no longer about a starting XI spot for Sturridge with Liverpool, but rather, getting on the pitch at all. Despite this, Daniel wanted to remain at LFC for the 2017-18 season.

The injuries mounted and began to take their toll

His pace now significantly reduced and hardly the same player as he was only three short years earlier, the belief was that Sturridge could still play a role in Liverpool’s success in late 2017 as squad depth would be a desperate need. The Reds were back in the Champions League thanks to Klopp, but the centre-forward position was thin as Divock Origi was sent out on loan prior to the start of the campaign. Newcomer Dominic Solanke, while an extremely promising player, was hardly ready to consistently feature in Klopp’s attack. This left only Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings as viable options at centre-forward.

“Studge” performed quite well during the first quarter of the current season, playing in the majority of league matches up until the end of October. He was then left out the of squad in four of the next five matches without much explanation. Suddenly, in December, it was revealed that Daniel Sturridge had acquired an “unknown injury” (as it is listed on Transfermarkt.com). He would not play another match for Liverpool in 2017.

As the calendar turned to 2018 the writing was on the wall. Jürgen Klopp had grown tired of Sturridge’s injuries which had restricted the player for so long. Klopp had expressed in 2015 that Daniel must learn to play through the pain and learn what “serious pain” is. The Liverpool manager could no longer figure Sturridge into his match plans due to his unreliability. Sturridge had run out of chances under Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool.

In the past 48 hours it was announced that West Bromwich Albion, dead last in the Premier League table (at the time of this writing), have paid Liverpool a loan fee to acquire Daniel Sturridge for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. With a World Cup call-up on the line (this will likely be Sturridge’s final chance to feature for England at that competition) Sturridge must get on the pitch in order to have a chance to play in Russia this summer. In order to get on the pitch he had to leave Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp recently made this very clear.

The newest member of West Bromwich Albion: Daniel Sturridge

And so it ends. After nearly six seasons of Daniel Sturridge at Anfield we are all left wondering: What could have been? Jürgen Klopp himself sums it up best:

When Daniel is fit, training, in shape, he is still an outstanding striker — there is no doubt about that. But he did not play the last few weeks for different reasons.

 

That is the problem though, is it not? With Daniel Sturridge there was always reasons why he did not play. At first it was the injuries. Later it was a combination of injuries and not fitting the mold of what Klopp wanted his “number 9” to be. Finally, it came to the point where Daniel was simply no longer needed. Through no fault of his own, Daniel Sturridge transitioned from being the perfect fit at Liverpool (2012-2015) to the exact opposite of what Klopp’s system demanded from it’s players. For Liverpool to be successful all eleven players must be in sync and carry out precise instructions for the entire 90 minutes. Daniel Sturridge was simply not capable of this.

Sturridge’s injury woes and poor fit within Klopp’s system led to a diminished role within the team. This unfortunately overshadows his marvelous efforts of 2013-14. For one season keepers everywhere trembled at the site of seeing number 15 in front of goal. He was England’s star centre-forward and seemingly the future face of Liverpool FC. It was simply not meant to be.

All of this being said, lets remember “Studge” for the brilliant goals, the awesome dance celebrations, and for being a genuinely good person. In a time when football has become a global financial juggernaut and some of it’s players have become primadonnas who care more about how many instagram followers they have rather than their club’s success, Sturridge was the opposite. A man of faith, he lives by the rules he sets for himself. He is a role model for many in a time when the sport lacks them to a great extent.

I think I speak for most Liverpool supporters when I say: “Daniel, thank you for the memories. Best of luck at West Bromwich and we hope to see you in the England shirt this summer. Godspeed old friend.”

 

 

 

 

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