Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez Already Combining to Affect Liverpool Attack
Liverpool banished memories of their defeat at Old Trafford one week ago with a resounding 5-0 home win over Norwich City in the Premier League. The game showed a stark difference in the Reds attack of just a couple of months ago.
Back in October and November, the Reds were hugely short of numbers in the final third. They were struggling to put away chances or even create clear ones of note for a spell.
A run of eight matches over that time saw Liverpool score more than once on only one occasion—a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park against Everton.
On Saturday, however, the Reds banged in five goals past Norwich, doubling their tally against the Canaries for the season. They had four different scorers—plus an own goal from Canaries' unfortunate keeper Ryan Bennett—to show for their invention, creativity and attacking intent.
Central to this improved offensive play was the superb and immediate combination between Luis Suarez and new signing Daniel Sturridge.
While the Uruguayan hit his 20th goal of the season in all competitions against Norwich, Sturridge showed off that he has the consistency and ability to keep getting goals from a centre-forward's position—without taking away any of the effectiveness of Suarez.
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Sturridge netted his third goal in three games for Liverpool.
Given that he has yet to play a full 90 minutes, the former Chelsea striker now has three goals in around 170 minutes of football—or one every 56 minutes on average.
Not a bad return so far, considering he is not yet fully fit.
Against Norwich, aside from the three points and the all-around dominant performance of the Reds, the most exciting potential aspect of the game was the linkup play between Suarez and Sturridge.
Within the opening 10 minutes there was ample indication that the two were on the same train of thought. They swapped passes on the edge of the penalty area to see Sturridge hit a low shot that was saved.
Since Brendan Rodgers had decided that Sturridge should be the central option for Liverpool, Suarez took up a roaming role from the left flank. He was rarely restricted to that particular area of the pitch, and instead he roved all over, through the centre and even popping up on the opposite flank.
The No. 7 dropped deep when required, combined well with Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard in the final third and was also happy to sprint beyond Sturridge when possible. The duo were very much working in tandem as a pair.
Liverpool's third component of the forward line shouldn't be forgotten.
Stewart Downing held the right side of attack admirably, cut infield to shoot and chip over crosses when possible and added another Premier League assist for Sturridge's tap-in.
That's now two assists in a month.
Downing added the structure and balance to the attack, while the other two made for the loose and creative pairing that troubled Norwich so much.
The most delightful and effective piece of combination play saw Liverpool take a 2-0 lead before half-time.
Dropping a little deeper, Sturridge attracted the attentions of Lucas Leiva, who thread a firmly struck pass into his feet. It was only a small check from Sturridge, three yards or so, but it drew a defender toward him to close out the space—resulting in a gap appearing over the front man's right shoulder.
Into it, predictably, shot Luis Suarez.
Such is the understanding that the two have immediately struck up that Sturridge was able to anticipate the run, dummying the ball beautifully to leave the defence split wide open, and the rest, well...Suarez has now reached 20 goals for Liverpool, the first player since Fernando Torres to achieve the mark.
He was hardly going to miss against Norwich, was he? That's seven goals in four games against the Canaries now for Suarez, and 14 in the same amount for Liverpool overall.
It's not just Suarez with whom Sturridge has immediately struck up a rapport, though.
Several times during the course of the game, the new No. 15 took the ball into feet, spun away from the defender and played a quick pass out wide into space down the left flank for Glen Johnson.
This was noticeable as a trait of Sturridge very quickly and is one of the real benefits of the usual right-back being on that side. With Suarez keen to cut infield, drift around the middle of the pitch and get involved in the buildup play, a huge gap is constantly open ahead of Johnson.
He needs no further invitation to exploit it.
It seems likely that this will continue to be Suarez's role for now, making Johnson the perfect attack-minded defender to play from that side and take advantage of the freedom he is given down that side of the field.
With Suarez allowed to drift and roam as he pleases, Liverpool lose none of his invention and work rate in the centre of the pitch.
How many goals will Daniel Sturridge score this season for Liverpool?
Importantly, the addition of Sturridge means the Reds have a constant presence in the centre of the final third too.
As time goes on and the two continue to learn how each likes to receive the ball, make runs into certain areas of the pitch and when to switch positions, Suarez and Sturridge will certainly be an entertaining pairing to watch on the field.
Thankfully for Liverpool, on the evidence so far at least, they also appear to be a highly effective one.
In barely more than one full Premier League match together on the field (114 minutes so far), they have scored three goals between them.
Hitting the back of the net isn't always the be-all-and-end-all of forwards' on-pitch relationship, but when the goals start flowing from very early on, you know you might be witnessing the blossoming of something fine indeed.
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