Liverpool: Why the Suarez-Sturridge Partnership Could Be Decisive for the Reds

Hemant Dua@hemant_duaCorrespondent IIJanuary 14, 2013

Liverpool: Why the Suarez-Sturridge Partnership Could Be Decisive for the Reds

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    A spirited second-half performance was not enough to help Liverpool get points off Manchester United, as the league leaders ran out 2-1 winners at Old Trafford.

    But the budding partnership of attacking linchpin Luis Suarez and Brendan Rodgers' latest recruit, Daniel Sturridge, was a big positive—one that could be decisive for the Reds going forward.

    After Rodgers watched his side produce an insipid first-half display and fail to carve out any clear openings, a change in personnel was imperative. On came Sturridge in place of Lucas Leiva, and the men from Merseyside looked like a different proposition altogether.

    Shortly after falling two behind, Liverpool pulled a goal back, as Steven Gerrard's stinging shot could only be parried by David De Gea into the path of the arriving Sturridge. Their new No. 15 had been presented with the easiest of chances, and he duly obliged, putting the ball past United's helpless custodian.

    That was not all. Going into the last half-hour of the game, Liverpool were in the ascendancy, and Sturridge was undoubtedly the catalyst.

    Luis Suarez has largely carried Liverpool on his shoulders this term, and boasts an enviable goalscoring record at present. But the fact of the matter is that he cannot do it all on his own. Not all the time, at least.

    With Sturridge to give him company for the final 45 minutes against Man United, Suarez looked a whole lot better, with some crisp link-up play between the duo on display.

    Going by the evidence put forward on Sunday, this partnership has the makings of an effective one, and the more time these two spend on the pitch together, the quicker they will forge an understanding.

    Here are the reasons this partnership could be pivotal in determining Liverpool's fortunes this season.

Suarez Benefits from Having Sturridge Next to Him

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    Luis Suarez looked completely out of sorts in the opening 45 minutes against United. It's no coincidence that his mini-revival after the break coincided with Danny Sturridge's arrival at the scene.

    This sparked fresh life into Liverpool, and they were the dominant force in the second half. Had Rodgers opted to start the game with this particular strike pairing, Liverpool might actually have gotten something from it.

    Sturridge-to-Suarez (nine successes) was tied for Liverpool's third-most-frequent pass combination, exceeded only by the Pepe Reina-to-Daniel Agger and Andre Wisdom-to-Stewart Downing combinations.

    This was in spite of the fact that this duo's time together on the pitch was just a little under 50 minutes.

    Suarez, meanwhile, found his strike partner five times in that period.

    Now, here's what is so interesting: Suarez created three chances for teammates over the course of 90 minutes, and all three came in the second half.

    Here are ex-Liverpudlian Graeme Souness' words on how having additional support up front helped the Uruguayan, as reported by Sky Sports:

    "All of a sudden Suarez had someone up and around him who he could bounce the ball off and the pair of them looked like they have the beginnings of a real partnership.

    "Sturridge looked lively and there's no doubting this boy has got real ability. The question is whether he can couple that ability with a great attitude, which has been the question mark against him all the time."

Steven Gerrard and Co. Have More to Aim at

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    Liverpool have had to play a large chunk of the season with just one natural striker in their ranks, namely Luis Suarez. Allow me to elucidate.

    Fabio Borini's injury kept him out of action for three months, and he has only just returned. Meanwhile, Andy Carroll had been loaned out to West Ham in summer, having had little success as a tall target man for Liverpool.

    Remember the time when Suarez was suspended for a trip to Upton Park earlier this season? Liverpool actually had to play without a natural front-man against stubborn customers West Ham.

    In steps Sturridge, and all of a sudden Brendan Rodgers can experiment with systems. He has the option of playing two up top, and doesn't have to persist with the 4-3-3 generally utilized by Liverpool.

    Sturridge is a pacy and lively striker, while at 6' 2'', he has quite a physical presence as well. Obviously the midfield, led by talisman and skipper Steven Gerrard, now has more to aim at. 

    Statistics indicate the same. Much like Luis Suarez, Stevie G too had a better second period than first.

Sturridge Is More Experienced Than Sterling, While More Talented Than Downing

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    On Sunday, Liverpool started Suarez as lone striker, flanked by Stewart Downing and youngster Raheem Sterling. Now, if your center-forward is to shine, he requires a high-quality supporting cast, too.

    I rate Raheem Sterling very highly, but one can't forget he is only 18. It's not fair to expect him to be the Uruguayan's chief partner-in-crime just yet.

    Meanwhile, Stewart Downing has been a flop for Liverpool since the time he engineered a big money move to Anfield from Villa Park.

    Against United, Sterling attempted five take-ons, and succeeded not even once. Downing, the man on the other wing, did not even attempt one. That's just poor.

    Sterling created one chance throughout, while Downing did just the same. If we look at Danny Sturridge's contribution in one half of football, it is significantly better than both of them put together. He created three chances while on the pitch.

    With all this statistical evidence at hand, Rodgers will probably want to give the Danny-Luis partnership a go from the very start, to see for himself exactly how decisive it can be.

You Don't Win Games Without Scoring Goals

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    To sum things up, I'm sure Liverpool fans harbor hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League sometime in the near future.

    That might be a bridge too far this season, but there's still so much to play for.

    The key is to win football matches, and even a lay man will tell you it can't be done without scoring goals.

    Luis Suarez has been hitting the back of the net with astonishing regularity this term, so if you throw in another prolific striker there, the club can achieve a lot before the season 2012-13 draws to a close.

    Often accused of being selfish, Sturridge still has a way to go before he truly establishes himself. But under the guidance of a manager who, it seems, will give him his fair share of chances, the Englishman may just silence critics sooner rather than later.

    It's obvious that if the partnership discussed earlier continues to blossom, then it will become the central cog in the Liverpool wheel.