It is looking more and more likely that this will be Daniel Sturridge’s final season as a Liverpool player.
The striker has struggled for fitness since Jurgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers as manager in October 2015 and has not managed to hold down a place in the starting XI when he has been available for selection. He doesn’t fit the profile of forward that the German coach is looking for up top in his side.
Sturridge is far and away the best and most natural finisher in the squad – there’s no doubt about that. But he cannot be selected in a side that plays the way Liverpool do based on that alone. He doesn’t work hard enough and isn’t enough of a team player to be kept in the side – especially when he hasn’t been chipping in with goals at his regular rate.
The form of Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi since Klopp took over at Anfield are also going to play a big part in the twenty-seven year old’s future at the club. Origi must have overtaken Sturridge now after going on a highly impressive scoring run following the Englishman’s latest injury. Prior to his current spell on the sidelines, the pair were vying to be the first man called off the bench to try and change a game when the preferred trio of Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane weren’t making the breakthrough. But the Belgian international has to have overtaken Sturridge thanks to his goals and work ethic.
Sturridge is the kind of player that likes to create his own chances or have them teed up for him. He wants to be the focal point in his team and clearly likes to have an attack built around him. It worked when he was co-starring in attack with Luis Suarez because the pair were in the form of their lives during that 2013/14 season and it almost delivered the title. But Suarez left the club to join Barcelona that Summer and Sturridge has barely been fit since – and, when he is, he has been left as the main threat for defenders to focus on.
Origi has struggled to look a natural fit when playing in the front three this season, but he has managed to grab plenty of goals despite that. His performances against West Ham and Middlesbrough were very different – but he ended up on the scoresheet in each fixture. Sturridge looks more a round peg in a square hole playing alongside the other attackers.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s certainly not akin to Mario Balotelli or Andy Carroll playing in this fast, free-flowing and intense system but he’s not the right fit for it and no matter how good at finishing he is, Klopp will not make enough allowances for him to make him fit.
If, or perhaps when, Sturridge is made available for transfer next Summer there will be no shortage of takers. But he will be taking a backwards step if he does leave his peripheral role at Anfield. The likes of West Ham and Southampton look the most interested in his services. Perhaps a club like Spurs would like to sign him, but given his injury history he could prove an expensive gamble that isn’t worth taking to a club with top four aspirations. To a side on the outside looking in, he could prove irresistible – even at £30m odd.
Fair play to Sturridge, he hasn’t been petulant or stroppy while being left on the sidelines. He has got his head down in an effort to regain fitness and his place in the side. It just hasn’t worked out for him and he looks the sort of player that he needs to sit out a few games with a minor knock when others can carry on and play through any residual pain.
The viewpoint that he is likely to be sold because Klopp doesn’t pick him when fit could be wrong, however. There is the school of thought that believes Sturridge is being slowly managed back to fitness. But I struggle to subscribe to that given the way things look when he has been in the side this season. He looks a little out of the loop and struggles to get involved in the football being played around him. And that’s not to say he is a total stranger lost in the mix, because quality players can always find a connection.
Sturridge is unlikely to want to hang around after the end of the season if his prospects of regular football are limited here. He’s at peak age for a striker and has already lost a lot of his career to injuries. He will be keen to be first-choice in order to keep his place in the England squad and make a play for a regular role upfront. The competition of Harry Kane is fierce, but if Sturridge can get and get his form back then he can more than challenge for the number 9 shirt for his country.
If he were to be sold next Summer to a midtable Premier League side, he wouldn’t leave with any hard feelings from most supporters. Most fans should be able to see the bigger picture and, unfortunately for Daniel Sturridge, we look a better side without him in it at present.