By Charles Ong
Prior to Sturridge’s signature on the dotted line at Melwood, I recall describing his prospective signing as “unimaginative” and conformed to the stereotype that since he is English, he’s probably overrated and overpriced.
As I watched the 23-year-old striker play a pivotal role in aiding Liverpool to their biggest win of the season at home against Norwich, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been proven emphatically wrong, despite the fact that he has featured in a little over 100 minutes in the Liverpool shirt.
When he tapped the ball in for Liverpool’s third goal – his third in as many appearances for his new club – he created history by becoming Liverpool’s first player since Ray Kennedy in 1974 to score in all of his first three games.
Sturridge is a player who possesses that ‘footballing arrogance’ about him. He portrays himself as an eager, confident player – always willing to get on the ball and work a bit of magic. He does not shirk from trying the audacious, although it might leave him terribly embarrassed should things go horribly wrong.
In short, he’s a showman - and that is what Liverpool need currently.
More importantly, there is a burgeoning partnership emerging between him and Suarez. The Uruguayan thrived when he led the line for Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool’s sole striker – so there were naturally concerns when those plans were shelved and Sturridge was assigned to play that role.
In hindsight, and as of now, it looks to be an excellent move by Rodgers. He clearly knows what Suarez can bring to the team – which are more than purely goals. His nutmegs, flicks, and movement mean that he will be involved a lot more in the build-up play towards the final third. Moreover, his innate ability to drag defenders away from their natural positions will crucially provide that inch for Sturridge, whose turn of pace will be deadly especially within the 18-yard box.
Still, it’s early days to conclude that Sturridge will be a success at Liverpool. That’s a naïve statement to make considering he has only played a part in three games, one of which was against non-League opposition. However the signs are promising with him adding depth to Liverpool’s frontline for the second half of the season.
After 23 games, the club remains on course to mount a top-four challenge. They have dusted their early season nerves down and have been one of the form teams of late. Big margin victories against the likes of Fulham, QPR, Sunderland and now Norwich have been registered over the past month. With each passing game, Rodgers is seeing his vision being realised as the players finally know their specific roles in the eleven and how the side should function as one.
The return of Borini is also welcomed and with the Liverpool Echo reporting that Coutinho is set to become Rodgers’ second signing in this transfer window, he won’t be short of options in the final third.
It remains difficult to foresee how the remainder of the season will pan out for Liverpool. But if anything, should there be a dip in form from the likes of Everton, Tottenham and Arsenal, then you can count on Liverpool to pounce on them.