Flying: When he's on song, Daniel Sturridge is tough to beat.
With the 10-game suspension handed down to Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge will be asked to step into some very big shoes. The obvious candidate to take over striking duties, the 23-year-old has the opportunity and the tools to shine on the big stage.
More than likely to play the remainder of the season in his preferred position and with no clear rival for it, the kid from Birmingham has the chance to stamp his mark on the English Premier League.
It is a role that he is no doubt going to relish. More so than he already has.
By scoring in his debut against Manchester United and becoming the first player since Ray Kennedy in the 1974/75 season to score three goals in his first three games as a Liverpool player, he was clearly up to the task from the jump.
Since signing with the Reds, Sturridge has netted six times in 12 games. In all competitions, he has averaged a goal every other game and has been called up to play for England.
Here is a look at five reasons why Daniel Sturridge can finally live up to his expectations and become one of the best strikers in the English Premier League.
Signing with big-name clubs speaks volumes about Sturridge’s talent and potential. It is obvious that he has acres of natural ability. It is the tilling thereof where he has been found wanting.
The fact that he has been unable to fulfill his potential at big clubs led to Sir Alex Ferguson dubbing him a “gamble” (via Sky Sports) for Brendan Rodgers.
Perhaps this inability to realize his talent is a reluctance to put in the hard work and dedication required—something that Rodgers alluded to saying (via Liverpool Echo):
He has made a very promising start and as long as he maintains that same level of commitment and responsible attitude, I can see him being a great signing.
However, his loan spell at Bolton Wanderers was a testament to his innate ability. In 12 games, he scored eight goals for the Trotters, including a goal in each of his first four games. Given the latitude, either through default or a show of confidence, Sturridge has proved he has what it takes.
There are signs that the former Chelsea man is realizing his potential at Anfield. His call-up for the World Cup qualifier against San Marino is evidence that his form is good enough to merit international call-ups.
Not a bad group to be in.
Brendan Rodgers has intimated that he’s looking for “three or four quality players” (via Sky Sports ), and he will undoubtedly have an eye toward a midfielder who enhances his strikers’ abilities. Even so, his newest striker has some world-class help already.
The banned No. 7 will be back. Should Sturridge find the rich vein of form that many believe he is capable of, six games back into the domestic campaign he will have the Uruguayan ace’s abilities and vision to add to his list of contributors.
Not only does "Captain Fantastic" provide vast experience and a tremendous passing range, but his leadership is something that Sturridge can lean on and learn from.
Vilified by the Anfield faithful for a large portion of last season, the former Villan has gone from strength to strength this season. He has already contributed to Sturridge’s tally, assisting him in his goal against Norwich City.
A fellow January transfer, the Brazilian has also shown early promise. Should he continue to mature in the English game and improve under Brendan Rodgers’ system, the partnership will only help Sturridge to flourish.
The Liverpool full-back's strafing runs and attacking vision around the 18-yard box will prove more and more invaluable as the relationship develops.
Something that might have been overlooked in his first half-season at Anfield is the aptitude Daniel Sturridge has exhibited in showing up for big matches.
Three of the England international’s five league strikes since moving north came in pressure-cooker fixtures against Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
In addition to delivering the strike against his old employers over the weekend, he notched the assist on Luis Suarez’s last-minute equalizer. And to round out his performances against top-four clubs, he also assisted in Jordan Henderson’s goal in the 2-2 tie against Arsenal.
It bodes well for Liverpool that Sturridge possesses the ability to perform against the best teams in the country. It is something that cannot be learned, only honed. If he harnesses and amplifies this disposition, goals against struggling clubs are sure to follow.
As a manager who has demonstrated a knack for drawing the best out of his players, Rodgers is sure to help Sturridge eke out every last bit of his latent talent. He will get what he needs out of the ex-Chelsea attacker. And probably by any means possible.
The Northern Irishman was clear about his expectations (via Sky Sports) after the signing and pointed to this being Sturridge’s “last chance at a big club.” It's not the first time he's used the media to nudge players in a particular direction.
It seems to have worked. Based on statistics alone (two games/goal average), No. 15 has arguably met the challenge head on.
Rodgers' recent comments after Sunday’s clash, claiming Sturridge has "shown he is one of the top strikers in the country” (via liverpoolfc.com) might seem a little premature, but they indicate that the manager feels Sturridge is capable of reaching the heights expected of him.
And they're a subtle suggestion of future expectations.
As long as Rodgers can find the fuel to stoke the fire that Sturridge showed against both of his former clubs, he will have a force that few will be able to extinguish.
Solo but not alone: Sturridge will have every opportunity to use his talent and support to succeed
This isn’t necessarily the negative that it implies. With Luis Suarez out until at least the end of the season and Fabio Borini not quite there yet, the striker’s position and all of its responsibilities falls almost entirely on Sturridge.
Now unconstrained by limited playing time and unfettered by positioning, Sturridge has the opportunity to prove that center forward is his best position. It is there for him to either grip or let slip away.
Should he manage to stay healthy and seize this occasion as he did in his loan spell with Bolton, it could prove to be the opportunity he has needed at a big club to catapult his career.
Of course, this sword has two edges. With someone of Suarez’s ilk absent alongside him, he is now under even more pressure to perform and pick up the mantle. But with the path ahead cleared of distractions, the glimmers of talent he has shown throughout his career could burst into full and brilliant rays.