Daniel Sturridge's 100th game for Liverpool - A tale of fighting to stay fit
When Liverpool face Manchester United at Anfield this season, the bigger story will be the coming back to relevance of the world-famous rivalry. Apart from that, another smaller story is the completion of a significant milestone for Daniel Sturridge if he steps onto the pitch during the match. This match would mark the 100th appearance of Sturridge in Liverpool colours since his transfer from Chelsea in January 2013.
Over the course of the past three and a half years, Sturridge has thrilled every single time he has played while frustrating the people at the club with his frequent injuries. He has scored 55 goals and assisted 14 times in 99 appearances for the Merseyside club which is an excellent record. However, during the same period, he has been reportedly injured 21 times which amounts to one injury every 4.7 appearances.
When fit, there is no question about his footballing ability which has seen him become an instant success at the Reds as he became the first player to score in his first three games since Ray Kennedy in 1974. He followed that up in the following 2013-2014 season by scoring 21 goals which were pivotal in Liverpool’s title challenge and earned a spot in the PFA Team of the Year alongside his team-mates Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez.
Sturridge finished runner-up in the race for Golden Boot with Suarez winning it for scoring 31 goals. However, Sturridge’s goals won more points than those scored by Suarez. The Englishman’s 21 goals fetched 20 points while Suarez’s 31 goals fetched 16 points during the season.
This shows the impact Sturridge has on games and his temperament to score crucial goals when the team needs them. Further, Sturridge also became the first Liverpool player to score in eight consecutive games in the Premier League era.
Main man after Suarez’s exit
Suarez’s departure to Barcelona in the summer of 2014 led to then Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hailing Sturridge as the main man at the club. However, a series of injuries kept him out of the side for five months and this is a pattern that has been recurring since then. He crossed the 50 goals mark in April 2016 against Merseyside rivals Everton and aimed for the 100 goals mark next.
“I won’t play it down and say I’m not happy I’ve done so well so far with the club but it is onwards and upwards. It is important to understand now the next aim is 100 goals. Now 50 has gone it is on to the next game and hopefully I can add to that,” said the 27-year-old.
Whenever Sturridge is fit, he always makes a difference, with his skill, link-up play, pace, runs behind defenders and goals. He still remains the best English striker and arguably the second best striker in the league behind Sergio Aguero at Manchester City in terms of lethality.
His injuries are the prime reason his name is not spoken in the same breath as Aguero. The club constantly sweats over his fitness for everyone at the club understands the quality he possesses.
The need to adapt
However, the situation changed for Sturridge once Jurgen Klopp arrived. While Klopp acknowledged the striker’s contribution, the German prefers intense work-rate called gegenpressing from his teams, even from his forwards which was not Sturridge’s strong suit.
Further under Klopp in the last one year, there has been strong emphasis on the team being the star and this meant Sturridge was asked to be fully fit before he could start. Roberto Firmino was and still is preferred by Klopp in both big games as well as away ones due to what he offers to the team in terms of work-rate and picking the right passes.
The former Chelsea striker was put under a separate training regime this January as Klopp attempted to put an end to Sturridge’s injury problems. While Sturridge has been comparatively fitter since then, he now needs to adapt his style of play to suit the team if he needs to stay and become a legend at the club making this season a crucial one.
However, the kind of player he has been, responding to challenges at Manchester City and Chelsea and then at Liverpool, there is little doubt that Sturridge will thrive under this new challenge. An improved training regime, a bit of luck with injuries and continuous effort can once again make the Englishman the main man at the club.
As he puts on the Liverpool jersey for the 100th time against Manchester United, the supporters, and the manager will look forward to congratulating him on the milestone and at the same time hope for many more goals to come.
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