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Daniel Sturridge

Could Centurion Sturridge be Klopp's Liverpool salvation?

16:55 SAST 2017/10/30
Daniel Sturridge Liverpool Huddersfield Town Premier League
For all their defensive frailties, much of the blame for a stuttering start lies with the Reds' misfiring forward line - and Sturridge could be key

The groans went up around Anfied once again. The tension was rising.

Jonas Lossl had leapt to his left to parry Mo Salah’s penalty up into the air. Jordan Henderson had fired it back, only to see his shot hit the outside of the post and flash wide.

After successive draws at home, which brought Jurgen Klopp’s side just one goal, Liverpool’s profligacy was rearing its ugly head once more.

Only Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring Manchester City have had more shots than Liverpool in the Premier League this season. Only three teams have missed more Big Chances – and no player in the league has squandered more of those than Salah (6).

Jurgen Klopp’s side had missed vital opportunities at key moments during both their 4-1 hammering at Tottenham and in their 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City.

And at home, they’d stumbled to successive draws with Manchester United and Burley after finding the net just once during 180 minutes that saw them fire off no fewer than 54 shots.

Klopp’s side had also slumped to a 1-1 draw at Newcastle in which they’d dominated possession and smashed 17 efforts at Rob Elliot’s goal.

So as Salah wasted yet another golden opportunity on Saturday, Reds fans feared more of the same from a side that had tasted victory just once in their last six PL outings.

Sadio Mane’s continued absence, first though suspension then due to injury, has no doubt contributed, but still there’s a sense that a genuine goalscorer could change Liverpool’s fortunes.

On Saturday they were forced to field one in Daniel Sturridge, who was making just his fourth league start of the season.

Persistent injury problems and his perceived inability to fit into Klopp’s pacey, dynamic approach had restricted him to just seven starts last season, and he may not have made his fourth of this term on Saturday if not for the absences of Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.

With few other options, he was given his chance. And five minutes after the break, Sturridge transformed the mood at Anfield by breaking the deadlock with the most un-Klopp like of goals. 

A hopeful long ball saw Huddersfield’s Tommy Smith stretch and nod the ball across his own box, allowing the predatory Sturridge to steal in and calmly lift the ball over the advancing Lossl. Liverpool were off and running.

“We forced the situation,” Klopp said. Sturridge forced the issue. Liverpool grew from that moment on and eventually cruised to victory as Roberto Firmino and Gini Wijnaldum rounded off a comfortable 3-0 win.

“I'm grateful for his faith in me and hopefully I've repaid him with the goal,” said Sturridge of his 100th club strike.

That faith may not be lasting. A penalty-box striker, the England international doesn’t offer what his manager wants. But, perhaps, he can offer what his manager needs.

Only three PL teams have created more than Liverpool’s 17 Big Chances this term, of which only a misfiring Arsenal have a worse BC conversion rate than Liverpool’s (42%).

So much has been made of Liverpool’s defensive frailties this season, which are often dismissed as individual errors.

But Jurgen Klopp’s high-pressing, attacking approach affords its defensive players so little protection that the likes of Dejan Lovren repeatedly find themseles exposed. 

With so little cover, any mistake invariably leads to a particularly good chance for the opposition – underlined by a league-high record of 20% of their shots-faced this season having found the net.

Klopp’s a manager defined by his style, and it’s a high-risk one. They’ve conceded more goals (16) than any of the top six so far – but, more importantly, have scored fewer (17). 

If they can address the latter, they can afford the former. And 100-club man Sturridge could have a huge role to play, even as a bit-part player.

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