It’s been a schizophrenic season for Liverpool. At times genuinely head-scratching.
First, the over-the-top soundbites from new manager Brendan Rodgers, who to outsiders seems to be talking just a little exaggerated for a relative novice to top-flight football.
Then, the stunning redemption and resurrection of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, both told to look for new clubs early on in the season but now important members of the first team.
Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the explosive starts that Raheem Sterling and (to a lesser extent) Joe Allen had, which have all but faded in recent months.
Varying reports on star forward Luis Suarez’s future at Anfield don’t help the still unsteady Red ship.
Additionally club captain Steven Gerrard and first-choice goalkeeper Pepe Reina have taken turns expressing worries at him leaving and assurances at him staying (ESPNFC and Metro respectively). And German champions-in-waiting Bayern Munich have been linked with a big-money move for Liverpool’s star striker at the end of the season (Independent).
The January transfer window, however, saw two potentially astute pieces of business that will have encouraged the Liverpool hierarchy, the fans, and most importantly Suarez himself.
While Philippe Coutinho did himself no harm by announcing his arrival at Anfield with a goal on his home debut last Sunday against a weakened Swansea City side, the star of Brendan Rodgers’ transfer policy at Liverpool thus far (and indeed possibly of the January window across the entire Premier League) has undoubtedly been Daniel Sturridge, who signed from Chelsea for a reported £12 million (Daily Mail).
We on Bleacher Report have discussed at length the attributes that Sturridge brings to the Reds. Amidst the intensifying yet contradicting rumors about Luis Suarez’s future, however, we should now consider that Sturridge’s arrival will be the key to keeping the Liverpool No. 7 at Anfield for a while yet.
With the addition of an intelligent and pacy forward in Sturridge, the goalscoring burden on Suarez, who with 18 goals is the Premier League’s current second top scorer, has well and truly been lifted: Sturridge has five goals in seven games across all competitions in a Red shirt.
Besides goals, Sturridge brings an all-round forward’s package to the Liverpool front line, which besides easing the load on Suarez’s shoulders also presents him with a larger platform on which to perform and deliver.
Sturridge’s excellent off-the-ball movement gives opposing defenders a whole new problem to deal with, and the space vacated by Sturridge’s runs is taken up by Suarez. No surprise that Liverpool looked toothless in their Europa League trip to Zenit St. Petersburg, a game that Sturridge couldn’t make because he is cup-tied.
As such, an even more important factor in Sturridge’s arrival is that he has brought an instant star quality, something that a Liverpool forward besides Suarez has lacked since the days of the prolific Fernando Torres, ironically the striker that Chelsea decided to keep instead of the promising Sturridge.
This is an important point.
Up until his move to Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge had always been the next kid to make it to the very top: He was a hot prospect during his days at the Manchester City academy, then an up-and-coming star at Chelsea who never got the break up front he had been angling for, and for a brief while one of the top young players in England during his loan spell at Bolton Wanderers.
By instantly settling into the Liverpool forward line alongside Suarez, Sturridge has announced his arrival as one of England’s future striking stars and his departure from his previous “potential” billing.
For Luis Suarez, this will be an important point as Sturridge not only presents the future, like his young colleagues Sterling and Andre Wisdom do, but also the present. And the Englishman fits into a team that, Suarez and Steven Gerrard aside, are currently lacking in world-class star quality.
As Steven Gerrard quite rightly pointed out in a recent interview (ESPNFC), Luis Suarez deserves to play in the Champions League with the highest caliber of footballers in Europe. That is beyond doubt.
It was the lack of prospective success in the short to medium term during the messy final days under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett that suggested to Fernando Torres that his future might actually lie away from Anfield, a place that he had come to love and be adored.
And while Torres has been reviled for his controversial move to archrivals Chelsea, the stark underlying fact that Liverpool didn’t seem to be ambitious enough for him will always stare sorely at Liverpool fans, who seem increasingly burdened by an emphasis on the past.
Daniel Sturridge—and Philippe Coutinho, so hope Brendan Rodgers, Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez—can be that missing link between present and future, that real hope that the good days are around the corner at Anfield, that Suarez might just offer another season of his services in this latest of revolutions at Liverpool.
It’s a tantalizing prospect that Reds fans are relishing and dreading with equal measure.
For now, the onus is on Daniel Sturridge to prove in the coming three months, and through Liverpool’s biggest remaining fixtures this season, that he can be a key factor in convincing Luis Suarez to stay on at Liverpool Football Club.
For extensive coverage on the Premier League, please check out my Bleacher Report writer’s profile and my weekly roundup of English football on SoccerWithoutLimits.com.
Follow me @theredarmchair.