Normally for Liverpool, scoring goals are not a problem.
Under Brendan Rodgers and now Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool sides have become known for their offensive weaponry and fragile defences, and on scoring more times than the opposition. However, they have always possessed frightening pace and intensity to overwhelm other teams.
Klopp has worked hard to improve Liverpool’s defence, but a potential title challenge this season will be dependent on their forwards, as it had been three years ago.
Albeit in a much-changed side, Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with League Two side Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup was not the greatest exhibition of Liverpool’s attacking talents.
Moreover, even when Klopp threw the big names on in the second half, the likes of Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge could not find the breakthrough against a stubborn Plymouth defence.
Gifted striker still a crucial component of this Liverpool squad
Liverpool’s squad depth has been under question in the last week, with Klopp’s reluctance to rotate in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw against Sunderland, before the second string struggled on Sunday.
Therefore, given the importance of scoring goals for Liverpool’s campaign, the fitness of Sturridge remains hugely significant to Liverpool’s chances of a first league title since 1990.
Firmino has taken the 27 year old’s striking berth in Klopp’s strongest eleven, but Sturridge is still Liverpool’s most talented out-and-out striker. Ironically he has stayed fit for much of this season, but unsurprisingly and unfortunately picked up an injury problem in December – exactly the period when a place in the first team beckoned because of Philippe Coutinho’s injury.
The Brazilian is only just returning from the sidelines nearly two months on, while Liverpool will also be without Sadio Mane due to the Senegalese’s participation in the African Cup of Nations.
Moreover, Divock Origi’s goals are drying up along with his performances while the likes of Ben Woodburn are too young for Klopp to rely upon regularly and in important Premier League matches.
With little else available, Sturridge remains a pivotal figure at Anfield, even if he is no longer a guaranteed first-team starter.
Liverpool may sign one or two players in January, but those rumours in the autumn linking Sturridge with a move away from the club were never more than rumours.
West Ham United, Stoke City and numerous other sides throughout world football will be monitoring Sturridge’s progress, and he will not be short on suitors if he and Liverpool agree to part ways in the summer.
However, why would Sturridge want to depart in January when he could claim a league title medal at the end of the season?
Furthermore, with the greatest of respect to the likes of West Ham, Sturridge will feel that he belongs at an elite club that is contesting for trophies, and a move to any of those teams would be near-impossible in January.
Finally, Liverpool provided Sturridge with the platform to succeed and showcase his fantastic talents, believing in his ability and illustrating their faith with Rodgers establishing Sturridge as one half of a key striking duo, alongside Luis Suarez.
Still a chance for Sturridge to stake his starting claim
Struggling for prominence and play-time at Chelsea and Manchester City, Sturridge became a superstar at Anfield, and will surely be reluctant to end his time at the club if he feels there is a chance of reclaiming his regular place under Klopp.
Sadly, once the injuries began to pile up in the second half of 2014, Liverpool had to find a way to survive without being utterly reliant on Sturridge’s goals.
His long absences and the lack of a quality alternative, having already lost Suarez, arguably cost Rodgers his job, and Klopp had no desire of a repeat. Now, this season in particular, Liverpool’s flowing and devastating style of play suits the front three of Firmino, Coutinho and Mane, with no place for Sturridge.
Therefore, after nearly two years, Liverpool have discovered a team that can flourish without their most deadly marksman, but when a side is hugely dependent on goals to succeed, any club would love to bring on a player of Sturridge’s calibre from the bench.
Combined with Liverpool’s frail depth, Sturridge will be called upon regularly by Klopp, either as a starter or substitute, to make the difference in Liverpool’s bid for the title, even though his playing time is no longer as consistent.
If his work-rate could match his goal ratio then Klopp would undoubtedly find a way to fit Sturridge into his side. However, should these next six months represent the final chapter of Sturridge’s time at Liverpool, then he will want to go out on a high, and departing on a league title would complete his coming-of-age story at Anfield.