There was a time “back in the day” when 15 players was all you needed in a season to win a First Division Championship – kids, ask your dads or check the internet, and you will find that in season 1978/79 the then European Champions Liverpool FC only used 15 players all campaign to win the Championship, and 2 of those players only played 2 and 4 games. This was indeed also a record breaking season of 68 points won (when it was 2 points per win – this would now equate to 98 points), and 16 goals only conceded in 42 games no less. Ah the good old days…
The world has indeed changed in the 34 years since then, mainly that the Championship is now the Premiership. Significantly though, the intricacies of the modern game in terms of club ownership, management structures, agents, player contracts, transfer deadlines all make the game a lot more difficult to run than it should be – a necessary evil sadly. It was this complication that meant that one of the most celebrated and mass supported football clubs in the world were left at the end of the 2012 summer transfer window with an embarrassingly inadequate number of proven quality forwards to cope with the demands of a Premiership season in the modern era.
The specific reasons for this, and where any fault lies is only known by those involved, and could be speculated on until the cows come home – in short a lack of true club leadership, sound advice and very poor planning all contributed – and to be honest, Liverpool FC find themselves lucky to be handily placed in 8th and still with an outside chance of gaining a 4th place Champions League qualifying spot, so coveted by Arsene Wenger each year. Liverpool are fortunate that this is a poor Premiership, that the emergence of Raheem Sterling has been premature, but mainly indebted to the outstanding form of the usual suspects Messrs Gerrard and Suarez.
However, Brendan Rodgers has got his act together, work was done in December and on 2nd January, Liverpool fans received a new year’s gift that was much expected in the form of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea for the highly common transfer fee of £ undisclosed….. Problem solved?
Let’s look at this question in 3 ways – Player, Team, Squad….
Is Daniel Sturridge the right player? A difficult question to answer because at 23 you can hardly say he has been a regular anywhere – as a kid at Man City he showed many glimpses of his clear talent; at Chelsea initially he hardly seemed to get a kick, yet surprisingly scored 5 in 20 games while winning Premiership and FA Cup winners medals; he spent a successful 6 month loan at Bolton when in most Bolton fans eyes he kept them in the Premier League for one more year – and his goal record of 8 goals in 12 games is indeed impressive – as was his pace and power and clear ability shown in a struggling poor side. He finished last season with 13 goals in total, again impressive given he was third or 4th in line behind Anelka, Drogba and Torres and played many of his games in a wider role under AVB and Di Matteo. His performances for Team GB last summer again reminded fans of his abilities… so based on all that, at 23, Liverpool have spent their cash on an English striker with the best years ahead of him, with experience, with a knack of goals and hopefully a point to prove.
Will Sturridge fit into the current first XI? – Good question, Luis Suarez – the Premier League’s top scorer has been playing fantastic all season as a central striker, Sturridge is a central striker – despite his over-use out wide by Chelsea. Given Brendan Rodgers’s desire to develop a 4-3-3 type system at Anfield it would appear a conundrum – or does it? Teams rarely play the same XI week in week out, so there will be weeks they play together and some they don’t. The key to this question is Suarez. Love him or loathe him you cannot deny him – Suarez is a player, he never gives up, must be a nightmare to defend against, but in truth is a very frustrating central striker. Suarez loves to roam, he goes where the ball is, tries to cause mayhem and make something happen for the team – but there have been far too many times this season when Liverpool have needed a striker to finish off the results of Suarez creative efforts, so there is every chance a place for Sturridge in the first XI will improve the team’s output and results, with him as the central figure of the attack, and Suarez in tandem roaming, creating and scoring.
Where does the Sturridge signing leave Liverpool’s squad… in a word or 2 – still short. Look at Man U – 4 high quality strikers, Man City 3 or 4, Liverpool now have 2. Even with summer 12 purchase, the Italian Fabio Borini nearing fitness after injury, reality is it is still only 2, because even Brendan Rodgers admitted Borini was one for the future. Another “for the future”, Adam Morgan, is being loaned out to Rotherham for experience, and the once “for the future” Danny Pacheco now seems in that bracket of “surplus to requirements”, so the expectation and hope of Liverpool fans is for another signing or loan deal in the forward department – indeed I believe a majority of Liverpool fans would not be unhappy to see Andy Carroll back, although he may carry too much media focus to return just yet. Of course the assumption is that the rest of Liverpool’s squad is up to scratch, which in reality it is not. There is a lack of regular goals from midfield; more creativity is needed in the squad; better defensive cover and despite recent returns to form and promise shown, Messrs Henderson, Downing and Enrique need to show a higher standard more consistently, in more games with more assists and more goals to finally cement a place as first team options who you trust to deliver.
So is Daniel Sturridge the answer for Liverpool FC, not really…. But take yourself back to your school days and those exam questions you’d get which started “this is a 3 part question”… Brendan Rodgers has just answered part “a” pretty well, however answers to parts “b and c” will be tougher, are worth more marks, and so may take more time to solve, and in truth he may need the input of the owners to fully solve them in terms of cold hard cash…. And the ownership situation is one for another day.
However, another run of 8 goals in 12 games from Sturridge, coupled with a better consistent team performance could yet deliver Liverpool some form of European Football next season, and if it is the Champions League, then the Sturridge signing could well be the catalyst to something significant.
Pic from Wikipedia