Analysing Sturridge’s Performance Against Spurs

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Nothing is certain in live apart from death, taxes and Liverpool fans discussing Daniel Sturridge’s future.

There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to the goal scorer supreme. One week he’s the only player in the Premier League capable of rivalling Sergio Aguero for the title of most lethal player in England and the next week the same people are proclaiming he’d find it difficult to get a start in any of the top 10 sides in England.

Daniel Sturridge is a taboo subject. The more people talk about it the more that middle ground your feet should be comfortably placed on starts to crumble away. It’s now frowned upon to think Sturridge is an elite striker but maybe not the best suited to a Klopp’s Liverpool. You’ve either got to go all in and say he’s a guaranteed starter or start spouting garbage which infers he’s Dimitar Berbatov levels of lazy.

He’s not. He’s still the same Sturridge who nearly fired the Reds to the Premier League title in 2013/14. The only thing different now is the formation/style. Take your pick.

It really doesn’t matter which word you choose, what it comes down to is tactics and the system. As Jurgen Klopp discussed on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football show, Liverpool may have a starting shape but as soon as the match kicks off it’s about getting certain individuals into areas they can do the most damage in. That’s what Klopp’s been doing to great effect so far this season.

Unfortunately for Sturridge the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Whereas Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho have flourished in a particular system it’s not been as kind to Daniel Sturridge. While some may argue Liverpool’s use of a narrow front three, meaning the striker isn’t isolated and having the support of two players is better than one, you do have to consider that the demands, instructions and responsibilities are all completely different to playing in a natural two man strike partnership.

Sturridge struggled against Manchester United but he was back to his destructive best on Tuesday evening against Spurs and it’s because of the system he was deployed in.

Against Spurs

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Against Spurs Liverpool lined up in a diamond formation. Kevin Stewart was the sitter in midfield with Ovie Ejaria and Gini Wijnaldum flanking him. Marko Grujic played as the man behind the strikers and Divock Origi partnered Sturridge in attack.

It’s a shape you can clearly see in the first picture. Both Sturridge and Origi take up positions between the full-back and the centre-back. As Kevin Stewart wins the ball back in midfield and drives into the space ahead of him Sturridge drops off into some space and shows for the pass. Stewart plays the pass and Sturridge lays the ball off to Grujic with one touch before spinning and looking to get in behind the Spurs full-back. In the third picture, Grujic opts to play the pass highlighted by the red arrow but it would have been interesting to see what would’ve happened had he been able to play the pass highlighted by the white arrow.

The fact Sturridge has support around him from the off means he’s able to play the quick pass and create space he could potentially exploit. In the first picture there are 6 Spurs players behind the ball but in the third picture, due to some clever movement and quick passing by the attacking players, Sturridge has managed to isolate Ben Davies.

Against United

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The three pictures above are taken early on in the United game. It’s a similar scenario to the one against Spurs – Liverpool have turned possession over and look to play on the break.

In the first picture you can see the three midfielders and the three attackers but look at the distance between Sturridge and the other two attackers, Firmino and Mane. The ball is played up to the Liverpool no.15 but unlike against Spurs he’s not got a player in his proximity to lay the ball off to and keep momentum going. Instead he has to hold onto the ball and wait for reinforcements to arrive. He plays the pass to Emre Can before looking to get in behind Chris Smalling, but United have cover in Eric Bailly there if a pass was attempted and Smalling wasn’t set. By the time the ball is worked out to the left hand side Sturridge is marked by two United players.

Sturridge looked to do the same in both instances but due to the systems being different he wasn’t able to do so. The narrative goes he was woeful against United but brilliant against Spurs? Would it not be more honest to say the system against Spurs played to his strengths whereas the one against United didn’t?

After the performance against Spurs many stated that it proved he could work in a Klopp system. Which, to an extent, is true. He can work in Klopp system but that’s not to say that it’s the Klopp system, the one the German regularly uses.

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  1. Sturridge doesn’t look like the same player as previous to me – forget the noticeable physical dip, he seems to play more like a typical No. 9 nowadays to me. Before he’d drift around a lot more looking for the ball, but it looks like he’s buying into this constant comment that he needs to be playing on the shoulder of the last defender, and so just looks far less involved throughout the game to me. I haven’t run the numbers, so that’s just my opinion from a standard eye test though.

    Nevertheless, I still think the criticism of his play & suitability to the team is well overboard, especially considering how well we played in 2 of his 4 league starts this season


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