Daniel Sturridge Transfer: What His Signing Means for Liverpool Team and Tactics

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

photo from liverpoolfc.com
photo from liverpoolfc.com

Liverpool have completed their first signing of the winter transfer window after confirming the capture of Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge.

The Reds have been linked with a move for the former Manchester City for some time and now he becomes Brendan Rodgers' fifth major permanent signing for the club.

With just 31 goals scored in the Reds' 20 league games so far, it has been apparent that Liverpool needed to add more goals in this transfer window. The hope now is that Sturridge aids enough to help the club move further up the league table.

Sturridge will be watching as Liverpool take on Sunderland at Anfield, but will not be eligible to make his debut until the FA Cup tie against Mansfield (Jan. 6), with a first Premier League appearance likely against Manchester United at Old Trafford (Jan. 13).

Much has been made of exactly where Sturridge will fit into Rodgers' plans at Liverpool, with the young England forward preferring a central role but playing much of his time at Chelsea in a right-wing role. Making the situation more intriguing is the fact that Luis Suarez, brilliant but lambasted last season for wasting too many chances, has excelled in front of goal this term, scoring 16 times already.

More important than who plays wide or central is the thinking that Suarez and Sturridge should combine excellently.

Played as the centre-forward, Suarez loves to drop deep, roam wide and be heavily involved in the build-up play. His first goal against QPR was a perfect example—from a position high in the centre he dropped off, then darted back along the line of defence before peeling off five yards to gain space.

From there, with little support, he beat his man before finishing well into the far corner.

On that occasion, of course, Suarez did all the end-game work himself, but often this season supporters have had to watch him check back or try to run past four defenders alone because the wide forwards haven't supported him well enough.

Liverpool have basically had to rotate the wide players this season between (early season, until his injury) Fabio Borini, Raheem Sterling and Stewart Downing.

Jose Enrique had a brief spell on the left. Jonjo Shelvey and Suso have filled in for a handful of games. But by and large it has been the two English wingers Sterling and Downing who have had to provide most of the support for Suarez.

What Sturridge will bring to the club now is first and foremost a much more aggressive final third presence than either of those two.

Sterling is precociously talented, but is understandably going to be hit-and-miss in the penalty box until he finds his rhythm as a regular first-team player. Downing has never been prolific in Red, or anything close to it, though his far better form over the past month hints that he could still have an important role to play this season.

Sturridge, though, can begin from the right side—but at every chance he gets he will look to drive through the centre when Suarez vacates that area between the opposition centre-backs.

In turn, this will leave space for the Liverpool right-back, usually Glen Johnson, to exploit down the flank.

And so the Brendan Rodgers tactical machine takes one rather large step forward.

Downing and Sterling have done their bit in spells to aid this approach, and in fairness there have been plenty of occasions when the Reds simply need to keep those wide players, well, wide. Then the emphasis is on the central midfielders to provide support to Suarez, and in recent weeks Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson have managed to do that.

Of course, Sturridge is willing and more than able to play the central role himself, leaving Suarez perhaps more free at times to roam and create chances for others as well as himself, while maintaining a permanent presence high up the pitch in Red.

Resting the Uruguayan at times will also be important. And it's nice to think that, as hard as he worked, Jonjo Shelvey will not have to continue in such an unfamiliar role in the future.

There is still work to be done at Liverpool and Sturridge is just the first of several signings that Rodgers needs to bring in to make the team work as he wants it to.

But just this one addition to the squad could see the team take shape in a much more consistent way, which lets the side attack with more support and more penetration.

Only two days into January and already Rodgers is making good on his intentions to improve the squad—now it's up to Sturridge to prove that the belief in him was well-placed, and that he is capable of bringing the goals that the Reds have desperately needed.