Red-hot form: Sturridge celebrates his winner against United at Anfield
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has enjoyed a blistering start to the new season, with the England international having netted an eye-catching six goals already in just five appearances for the Reds.
However, just what are the reasons behind his red-hot form in front of goal?
Sturridge, who has four goals to his name from the opening five Premier League matches in this campaign to make him the joint top scorer in the top flight, looks like a front man who believes he can currently score at will, despite his rare blank in Saturday’s surprise 1-0 loss to Southampton at Anfield.
However, this is also a player, do not forget, that came into the new season on the back of a serious ankle injury sustained playing for his country in May, before then picking up a thigh strain just three matches into the campaign.
And so just what are the reasons behind the 24-year-old’s sensational beginning to the new season, a start that has seen Sturridge make Reds history by becoming the first-ever Liverpool player to score in the opening four Premier League games of the campaign?
There has been one giant shadow hanging over the start to Liverpool’s season.
And that is the brooding presence of striker Luis Suarez, who has been forced to sit out the opening six games of the club’s campaign as the Uruguayan completes his 10-game ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic back in April.
In fact, you would be hard pressed to have watched the Merseysiders in action so far in this campaign without noticing the TV cameras cutting from the action on the pitch to the Reds’ star man in the stands, and yet despite initial fears to the contrary, both Liverpool and Sturridge have actually managed to flourish in his absence.
And from a purely tactical point of view, this is perhaps not that surprising in hindsight, as Sturridge is now operating as the club’s only front man in a lone forward role, ably supported by midfield runners.
So in essence this season, the former Chelsea attacker is now the man being presented with the majority of the chances, rather than previously having to share them around with Suarez.
Conversely, his team-mates are also now always looking to him with their passes, rather than “El Pistolero” as they would have previously.
And by the time last season had drawn to a close, the striker had managed to record an impressive 11 goals and five assists in his 16 outings in all competitions, including 10 goals in the Premier League.
In many ways, the Englishman has simply continued the start of this campaign where he left off with the Reds last May.
Oddly enough, the forward’s electric start to the new campaign has actually come on the back of virtually no preseason whatsoever after the player tore ligaments in his ankle while away on international duty with England in May.
All of which meant that the 24-year-old took his place in the Reds’ starting XI for their top-flight opener with Stoke City at Anfield (see above) having played barely 45 minutes of football during the summer.
But that lack of action does not seem to have had an adverse effect on Sturridge’s form in front of goal so far in this campaign.
And so perhaps the striker is currently benefiting from the extended period of rest he was forced to endure during the club’s preseason tour of the Far East and Australia, with Sturridge fit and raring to go when the campaign did eventually kick off against the Potters.
Let’s face it, when Suarez is in the side, there is only ever one main threat up front for the Merseysiders, and it isn't Sturridge, as the forward quickly learnt after joining the club at the turn of the year.
Consequently, when a striker is told that he must play second fiddle to one of his fellow attackers, his form in front of goal will inevitably fall by the wayside, as we have also seen with Wayne Rooney following the arrival of Robin van Persie at Manchester United.
Now, as we touched on previously, Sturridge actually enjoyed an encouraging partnership alongside Suarez in the second half of last season. Although, the difference in his aura when he is operating without the Uruguay international alongside him in attack is clear for all to see.
And, as a result, so too is his form in front of goal, something that manager Brendan Rodgers alluded to just before the start of the new campaign when he observed: “He [Sturridge] has wanted to be in this position – leading the attack for a big club with everything that brings.”
Well, it can also lead to a better understanding between team-mates as they begin to learn a new player’s particular movements and mannerisms.
This is especially true when we are talking about a striker who will often rely on a simple look from the man on the ball before deciding what run to make.
And so Sturridge’s eye-catching start to the new season is just a product of him becoming more accustomed to his new surroundings and environment.
Consequently, his teammates have also grown to better understand his particular movements, with the results there for all to see so far in the club’s opening five fixtures.
How many times have you heard a manager talk wistfully about his front man just needing to regain his confidence in front of goal?
At the moment, Sturridge is clearly benefitting from an abundance of confidence running through his veins, with the forward wanting to get on the ball at all times.
And as soon as he does, the 24-year-old immediately looks to add to his goals tally.
In essence, the English international currently feels like he can score at will, from any angle or distance, against any opposition or goalkeeper, and when you have a striker with that kind of mentality, then they are a very dangerous breed indeed.