How Liverpool Striker Daniel Sturridge Can Get Even Better

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Daniel Sturridge has been one of the stars of Liverpool's impressive early-season performances, hitting match-winning goals in all three league games as the Reds have taken their spot on top of the Premier League table.

A further two goals in the Capital One Cup leaves the striker with five goals in his first four matches of the season and gives him a thoroughly impressive rate of 16 goals in 20 games since signing for Liverpool in January.

Of course, with such good starts come raised expectations, and Sturridge will have to continually improve his game to remain a first-choice starter and achieve major success with his club and country. The signs are certainly there that he can become the "top English striker" that his manager, Brendan Rodgers, believes he can be, as per his comments to the official club site, but Sturridge still has areas of his game which can improve.

If he can work further on those parts of his game, there is no doubt that the No. 15 will be one of the most feared forwards on the continent.


Maintain Fitness

First and foremost, Sturridge has to remain fit and firing. Liverpool must do everything they can to keep him on the pitch more often, as he has struggled with muscle strains and repetitive injuries previously.

Sturridge missed all of this preseason due to an injury obtained in an end-of-season friendly against Ireland—not his fault or his body's, it was a rough challenge which caused the issue—and was struggling for fitness before Liverpool's game versus Manchester United. His thigh problem from the week prior to the win over United is serious enough to keep him out of England's World Cup qualifier against Moldova, though he should play in the next game against Ukraine.

The Reds' physio and fitness staff worked wonders with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson last season, keeping the notoriously injury-prone trio on the field almost all season long. The same will now be needed with Sturridge.

It always, understandably, takes players a few games to get back to top form and sharpness after a spell on the sidelines, particularly with muscle or ligament injuries, and Sturridge can't afford to be missing every third or fourth match with knocks.

Stay fit, and he'll stay sharp and focused. And, as Liverpool have already seen, that will mean goals.


Continue Improvement on Movement

Sturridge's off-the-ball movement is actually one of his real strengths in that he uses space extremely well to find himself room to shoot or create space for a teammate to move into.

Already this season he has fashioned a number of opportunities on goal for himself and others because of his clever movement—all three of his league goals have shown incredible appreciation of space and timing—but this is an area where he can improve further.

In an age where even the weakest sides are now well-organised and stubborn to break down, attacking movement and vision is arguably the number one trait that top attackers have. The more Sturridge learns about playing with his teammates, the more naturally he will drop off or burst past the defence on the shoulder, already expectant of where the ball goes.

With the likes of Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho supplying passes from deeper positions, and with runners such as Jordan Henderson and, soon, Luis Suarez to move into the spaces he leaves behind, Sturridge's movement will yield countless scoring chances for the Reds. The better Sturridge becomes with his movements, the more he will be able to affect Liverpool's attacking phases of play, even when he doesn't touch the ball himself.


Right Foot and One-on-One Situations

Although Sturridge is a naturally left-footed player, he is not shy about taking on shooting chances with his right foot, though of course he will instinctively try to shift the ball the other way first.

Becoming more proficient with a player's "wrong" foot is merely a case of practice, practice, practice, and the coaching staff are no doubt rigorous in their dedication to making Sturridge tuck away chance after chance with his right foot.

Scoring a few goals, even (or especially) close-range tap-ins, with his right foot will increase his composure and confidence when the ball approaches that boot inside the box, upping the chances that he will take the early shooting chance rather than try to switch it.

Finally, and this is in part linked to the use of his right foot, Sturridge can still improve in one-on-one situations against opposing defenders.

The former Manchester City forward has great acceleration and power from a standing start, and he brings out all the tricks and flicks in and around the opposition's penalty box. He now needs to continue attempting to beat his man when, for example, around the channels or further wide on the flanks.

Dribbling the ball is an art which is frustrating and can seem selfish when it doesn't come off, but take a defender or two out of the game with a quick sleight of foot and Sturridge's game will go up another level in terms of what he brings to the attack.

With his pace over 10 metres or so, once he is past a defender they are unlikely to win back the ball without bringing him down, or else leaving Sturridge clear to run, pass or shoot at will.

At 24 years old, Sturridge should now be coming into his own as a Premier League striker. A lack of regular game time up until now at his previous clubs may have hampered his progress, but he is certainly making up for lost time at Liverpool.

With small, incremental improvements in key areas of his game, Sturridge can genuinely go on to become as feared a forward at Liverpool as the likes of Fernando Torres and Suarez have been over the past few years.