Klopp’s role for Sturridge could give him a new lease of life
Few Liverpool fans could have predicted that Daniel Sturridge would have such an important impact on the side this season. After departing Anfield to join struggling West Bromwich Albion in January, Sturridge has returned to Merseyside with a fresh perspective on his role in the Reds’ squad. Much of that is arguably due to Jurgen Klopp’s decision to use him sparingly given his unfortunate run with injuries.
Sturridge climbed off the bench at Stamford Bridge last month to score a stunning last-minute equaliser against his former Chelsea employers, making it three goals in as many games. With Brazilian ace, Roberto Firmino seemingly the first choice for the central striking role, Sturridge has been forced to bide his time from the bench. Further still, when he has come on, Klopp has opted to use him as more of a second striker. Sturridge has always had bags of ability and he has certainly taken to playing as a number ten like a duck to water.
As a number ten, Sturridge is operating less as a battering ram and more of a clever playmaker. It’s allowed him to take fewer blows from central defenders and enabled him to make intelligent runs from deep that few Premier League defences can cope with. Sturridge has said that while it’s a “different role”, he wouldn’t say that he’s “working harder”. He freely admits that although it “might seem as if [he’s] working harder”, he was played in “a different kind of position” in the past.
Sturridge’s form has caught the eye of England boss, Gareth Southgate. His early season form has earned him a recall to the England fold, ahead of the next international break. It’s been a breath of fresh air to see Sturridge playing injury-free. At the age of 29, Sturridge has clearly failed to make the most of his mid-20s through injury, but Klopp’s more withdrawn role could help to prolong his career at Anfield and beyond.
His audacious long-range strike against Chelsea last month was his 50th league goal for the Reds, which is quite surprising considering his lengthy spells on the sidelines. In fact, only Jordan Henderson has been at Anfield longer than Daniel Sturridge in the first team squad. The heady days of partnering Suarez under Brendan Rodgers seem like a lifetime ago. However, as one of the older statesmen in the group, Sturridge still feels very much at home at Anfield. At 150/1 in the Premier League betting to get the Golden Boot this term, some might suggest that these odds are far too long providing he can stay fit.
With Mo Salah still yet to find his mark this campaign after a bitterly disappointing summer at the 2018 World Cup, keeping Sturridge fit and hungry will be one of Jurgen Klopp’s top priorities throughout the winter months. The Chelsea equaliser – and his return to the international scene – proves that he has genuine star quality. The disappointing thing for most Reds fans is that they just haven’t seen enough of it. If Klopp has found the magic formula to keep him involved enough without doing any physical damage, the Reds will have a forward line that can keep them well and truly in the title hunt this term.