“He’s too selfish, he doesn’t look up, he won’t pass the ball when there’s an opportunity for him to shoot.”
The speed of the signing summed up just what the Reds had been missing during the opening half of their season, and when it took Sturridge just seven minutes of his debut in the FA Cup tie at Mansfield to open his goalscoring account for the club, Liverpool supporters were hoping that this was a sign he could hit the ground running.
He has most certainly done that, but even though he took his goals tally to eight for the Reds in Saturday’s 6-0 demolition of Newcastle at St James’ Park, it is arguably other aspects of his game that have been more impressive.
Words like those in the opening paragraph may still have been coming out of the mouths of many who watched the match on Saturday, but Sturridge ensured that they were rammed back down throats in the 17th minute.
Philippe Coutinho’s sublime through ball sent Sturridge haring towards goal, but where once he would have only had eyes for the back of the net, this time the forward spotted Jordan Henderson to his left and, with Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot left horribly exposed, Sturridge’s ball to the ex-Sunderland midfielder allowed Henderson to tap into an empty net.
He was rewarded for his selflessness with two well-taken goals from Coutinho and Henderson passes in the second half, but once again it was Sturridge’s all-round game that impressed the most. He’s now scored seven Premier League goals for Liverpool, but an arguably more impressive fact is that he’s assisted five.
His dancing may still divide opinion, but the forward has quickly made friends on Merseyside.
Those previous allegations of selfishness were always somewhat unfair given that Sturridge’s appearances for former clubs Manchester City and Chelsea were almost always coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes or so. Permanently in the shadow of the likes of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, he would frequently do all he could in a bid to impress.
Now though, at a club and with a manager who believe in his ability to impress in matches from the start, Sturridge can make a longer-lasting impact.
The absence of 30-goal top scorer Luis Suarez for 10 league matches might have intimidated some forwards asked to carry the goalscoring burden in his absence, but judging by his display at Newcastle it only seemed to inspire Sturridge.
He’ll be relied upon in the closing three matches of this season and―barring anything spectacular happening in the summer transfer window―the opening six games of the next campaign, but the goalscoring prowess he can bring in the months and years to come should excite supporters for a lot longer than that.
It is starting to look as though Sturridge and Liverpool were made for each other.
He is a player who clearly believes that he belongs on the world stage given his struggles to establish himself at Manchester City and Chelsea, whilst the Reds as a club may have slipped in recent years but they are still a global force. Every match is viewed worldwide.
That is the sort of exposure Sturridge wants and deserves, and he hasn’t found the challenge of playing for the Reds to be the same kind of problem that previous English signings have. Sturridge seems to thrive on the big occasion―three of his Reds goals came against Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea after all.
All that would be needed to cap off a fairly impressive foursome would be a goal in a Merseyside derby, and he’ll be playing in his first one of those this weekend.
He’ll enter it with the full backing of his new fans, the number of which is seemingly growing by the week.