The merits of Daniel Sturridge have been debated regularly since the appointment of Jurgen Klopp. Some wanted him to become like Klopp’s old pal Robert Lewandowski – which he can’t – and others thought it would never really work out at all. We are now over 12 months into Klopp’s exciting Liverpool regime and Sturridge’s place is only becoming more uncertain.
His role in the squad is not what many expected for Sturridge. From Liverpool’s second-in-command to a misshapen piece in an entirely different jigsaw, Sturridge is firmly cast as misfit in the latest iteration of Liverpool’s show. Klopp is the director and his demands of his central forward simply do not align with the type of player that Daniel Sturridge is.
In the latter days of Brendan Rodgers’ tenure, Sturridge was a pivotal member of the team when fully fit. The fact that he had such a long period where he was seldom at full match fitness perhaps has contributed to the plans of Klopp’s team being made without him. It is a functioning excuse, but there are more fundamental issues to Sturridge’s game that do not make him a realistic regular component in the Liverpool side.
Adaptation is key for many players, yet his failure to do so is not something that should necessarily be seen as a negative for Sturridge. His brash confidence and reliability in front of goal make him the superb forward that he is and, as pointed out by Gary Neville last Monday, it is simply not in his nature to play the pressing game that Klopp operates with. Sometimes players are not compatible with a system; that is okay.
When Sturridge’s out-of-possession numbers are compared to the three players who are favoured over him in the front three he, unsurprisingly, comes up short.
Tackles + Interceptions per game in the PL this season:
Firmino – 2.6
Mane – 2
Coutinho – 2.1
Sturridge – 0.1
— Dinesh Hardayal (@DHardayal) October 19, 2016
However, it is not just the pressing game that does not suit Sturridge. The team does not play as fluidly with a ‘natural’ number nine and the whole attacking unit looks more threatening with the intelligent, scurrying Roberto Firmino leading the line. Sturridge has often looked disjointed from the midfield, failing to act as a focal point and often dropping deep to look for possession which can congest the space between opponents’ midfield and defence. The game against Manchester United was an excellent example of this exact issue, as can be seen on the pass map below.
— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) October 17, 2016
Assuming that Klopp has a long future at Liverpool, Sturridge must move in the summer of 2017. Having just turned 27, he is reaching the peak of his powers and has all the assets to become one of the greatest forwards in the European game. Few players finish chances as clinically as he can, and few have the audacity to attempt some of the things he sees as second nature, but his current situation at Liverpool is detrimental to him and his club.