With two days remaining in the January transfer window Daniel Sturridge secured a move away from Anfield, to West Brom.
The striker turned down potential moves to Inter Milan and Newcastle because of personal reasons and will spend the remainder of the season in his hometown.
It appeared the England forward wasn’t in Jurgen Klopp’s immediate plans, who had previously said he was unable to guarantee him playing time.
“I have never in my life promised a player game time for the next few months. It is not possible. We have mentioned all the things like it was so far.’
Liverpool’s number 15 had only started five games this season and hasn’t featured since Liverpool’s early December rout of Spartak Moscow.
With the World Cup coming up, and his game time at Liverpool dwindling, Sturridge, understandably, wanted a move before the transfer window shut.
But the question remains, why did he fail to impress manager Jurgen Klopp?
In the past four seasons, Sturridge has featured in just 55 matches.
Furthermore, despite having an out-and-out striker available in Sturridge, Klopp has engineered an attacking system that centres around a false 9, link-up play and ruthless counter-attacking football.
Alongside this style of play – he demands a press. And once you’ve pressed, you press some more!
Sturridge thrived under the loan striker system which Brendan Rodgers implemented before his departure.
During their ultimately unsuccessful title challenge in 2014, Rodgers claimed that Sturridge had “every tool and every quality” to be a world-class forward. Something that was hard to argue with. He contributed 21 league goals that season – many of them sublime.
In the 2015-16 season, 72.7% of his appearances were starts. In 2016-17 that figure was 40.7% and has dropped this season to 35.7%…
Lack of Goals… and Pace
During his first 18 months at Anfield, Sturridge scored 34 goals in 48 league games – including 21 goals in 29 games during the 2013-14 season… A prolific start, I think you’d agree?
Things were looking rosy for the forward, but since his bright start up north, things have declined somewhat.
13/14: 28 Goals in 42 apps
14/15: 5 Goals in 19 apps
15/16: 14 Goals in 30 apps
16/17: 9 Goals in 31 apps
17/18: 3 Goals in 15 apps
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher said this, this time last year, ‘’Sturridge is a completely different player to when he first came.
‘More often than not you can’t question his finishing but he doesn’t do anything else in the game now like he did when he first came.”
Another aspect of his game that has declined is his pace with and without the ball.
While he averaged a top speed of 32.4km/h in the 2013-14 campaign, he only averaged 28.5km/h during last season and has failed to reach 33km/h at any point in a Premier League game throughout the last three seasons.
His pace and power were both attributes he played to when he joined Liverpool, and helped create a fearsome strike force with Luis Suarez.
Klopp Likes Adaptability and Unpredictability
Instead of going with a single frontman, Klopp has opted for and created an attacking force that consists of pace, agility, versatility and team work. The effective trio of Firmino, Coutinho and Mane, bolstered this season by the arrival of Mo Salah in the summer, had been extremely prolific having a combined 64 goals.
Chris Sutton said, “There is very little separating Liverpool and Manchester City in terms of who boasts the best forward line,” – a forward line that Daniel Sturridge is not a part of.“
The ‘fab four’ have now become the ‘thrilling three’ following Coutinho’s departure and Klopp has been loyal to Salah, Firmino and Mane, and why wouldn’t he be? If something isn’t broke, why fix it? Sturridge’s lack of pace, and tendency to be greedy in the final third, naturally means he doesn’t fit this explosive style of play.
There’s no doubt he has quality but Sturridge’s fitness (or lack of it) lies at the centre of all his problems. Lack of game time, means lack of match sharpness and a lack of goals. It’s a constant cycle. A move away from Anfield was the best thing he could have done.
In total, Sturridge scored 63 goals in 133 appearances for Liverpool following his move from Chelsea in January 2013 – that still, is a good return for a forward with so many injury problems. But it wasn’t meant to be.
And so he’s found himself out on loan at the Hawthorns but all may not be lost for Sturridge. If he can prove he’s still capable of scoring goals and can perhaps recapture that extra yard of pace, he may be able to convince Southgate, and also Klopp, that he has a future in the white of England and red of Liverpool.