As soon as the team was announced my timeline went crazy, many fans were apoplectic about Daniel Sturridge being left on the bench. If I’m being honest I wasn’t at all surprised, to me it made perfect sense. Fair enough he scored a brace against Burton Albion on Tuesday, but today’s a different game against a completely superior set of players. I’d also like to add that Daniel scored those two goals after coming on as a substitute. Frankly I’d have been surprised if Klopp had actually started Sturridge ahead of Firmino.
When we play away, particularly at the big boys, Klopp likes a front four that will press high and try to smother the opposition. He opted for a solid midfield duo in Henderson and Wijnaldum, which allowed Lallana to press higher up the field as we attempted to defend from the front. Lallana is always going to start in these games as he’s the architect of much of our pressing game. Add to that the pace of Mane in transition, the creativity Coutinho brings and we are down to having only one forward position remaining. The reason he chose Firmino should be abundantly clear. He knows damn well that Firmino is going to put one hell of a shift in for the team, can we honestly say Sturridge would do the same?
While Sturridge is without a doubt the best finisher at the club, he’s not on the same level as Firmino when it comes to closing defenders down, harassing them and giving them no time to settle on the ball. I also firmly believe that Firmino is much better suited to playing counter attacking football. This time last year I’d never have made that statement, never. Since his return from injury though, Sturridge hasn’t been anywhere near as explosive in his movement as he was previously. Im genuinely unsure whether he’s lost his explosiveness, or whatever he’s still a little unsure of his body. Only Daniel will know the answer to this but it’s something I’ve made note of on numerous occasions since his injury. This article is in no way meant to be a hatchet job on Daniel Sturridge, that’s certainly not my intention. I’m a big fan of his and the hairs still stand up on the back of my neck whenever he has the ball at his feet in and around the box. This game though was never going to be a game I expected him to start.
I always try to be honest when I write and today will be no different. I also considered the theory that Klopp had left Daniel on the bench as a reminder of who’s making the decisions at the club. I wasn’t at all impressed with Daniel coming out and saying he wants to play through the middle and not out wide. Klopp made a valid point that although he may start out wide, our forward three are fluid and he expected Daniel to do his best work inside the penalty area. It was also mentioned that Ronaldo starts out wide but still manages to end up in the box scoring plenty of goals for the team. I concluded though that I was being petty and that Klopp would only ever make his decisions based on what’s best for the team for this particular game.
As the game played out today I believe the decision to play Firmino over Sturridge was proven entirely correct. Firmino was excellent and caused Spurs a lot of problems, none more so than when he had his heels clipped in the box and we were awarded a deserved penalty. The movement of the front three was excellent and there was real signs of an understanding forming between Mane and Firmino. Firmino’s movement opened up space that Mane was only to happy to run into and at times the Spurs defence looked baffled and unsure who exactly they were supposed to be tracking. I don’t believe that playing Sturridge up top today would’ve caused Spurs the same problems that Firmino did.
Is there still a place for Sturridge in a Liverpool starting eleven? Of course there is and I fully expect him to start the majority of our home games and I’d also bet that he’ll be our top scorer come next May. Away from home though, particularly against our top four rivals, I think we’ll see Roberto Firmino starting because of what he brings to the team. I also believe the decision to bring Origi on ahead of Sturridge for the tiring Coutinho was the correct one. Spurs were chasing the game and the pace of Origi is perfectly suited to play on the counter attack, particularly against a tiring Spurs back four.
These are all just my own opinions though, and I completely understand how and why people wanted Daniel to start. It’s hard seeing your best marksman sitting on the bench but in games like the one today, Klopp needs his front line to work hard as a unit and defend from the front. I don’t think that these are the traits we think of when we think of Daniel Sturridge. Ultimately the decision rests with Klopp and he’s the one that will live and die by these decisions. On this occasion, for the system he wanted his team to play, I believe he made the correct decision to leave Daniel Sturridge out of the starting eleven.