Jürgen Klopp has given his full support to Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge amidst concerns that the striker has lost a yard of pace as a result of constant injury issues over the past three seasons.
The England international formed a frightening striking partnership with Luis Suarez in 2013-14, scoring 21 goals in 26 Premier League games, but since the Uruguayan's exit has been riddled with injuries.
Sturridge has maintained a highly-credible goalscoring ratio of a goal every two games, but hasn't had many regular runs in the first-team since that incredible campaign due to his time on the sidelines.
The 27-year-old has been fully fit for much of this season, scoring five goals in 13 appearances in all competitions, but has failed to muscle his way into Klopp's team as a regular starter.
Yet Klopp is backing the frontman to produce the goods again and recapture the kind of form that saw his £12.5 million switch from Chelsea considered incredible business from the Anfield outfit.
'Everything will be fine for Sturridge if he stays fit', says Klopp
Asked for his opinion on Sturridge's reported decline in speed, backed by Sky Sports' statistics, Klopp said: "I don't know exactly about his level of 2013-14 because I was not here, but that's not too important."
He said that, despite the performance and the result, the Southampton game was "a really good game from the physical side" of Sturridge as he was "really involved from [the] first [minute] to [the] last" and "there was not a big difference between the first and second-half and all that stuff."
Klopp, disregarding the comments about his speed, said that "usually" Sturridge would have scored "twice in this game with the chances he had" and continued: "But he's a human being so he missed the chances. That's all."
The German noted that "of course" more frequent and lengthier injury problems "can have the affect that you lose not your speed immediately but your 100 per-cent trust in your body for sprinting."
"Ask a sprinter. That's high intensity. That means everything. If you get a few injuries from this, it may take a little bit of time, but it's not forever," vowed Klopp in defence of the Reds' No.15.
He added that he doesn't know "when they measure exactly in the season" but spoke of the "few injuries" that Sturridge struggled with last season, saying he was "always coming back after injury, playing a little bit, then [suffering] another."
Klopp called it "the story" of Sturridge's season last year, but said it is "not a real problem in this moment" and that the striker is "in the best age for a football player" at 27 and so "everything will be fine" if "he can stay fit."
The Liverpool manager also suggested that the fans should have more sympathy with Sturridge in his situation.
He said: "If you're not a football player and you're more ill than other people, you don't think 'ah nothing can happen' and you go out in a shirt or something. You have everything, scarf and hat or whatever. Our experiences have influence on us."