Brendan Rodgers threatened to spark a debate after Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Sunderland, claiming Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez rival Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for the title of the country’s best strike partnership.
Sturridge scored the first and created two others for Suarez at the Stadium of Light as Liverpool moved second in the table, six points ahead of Manchester United.
Rodgers commented post-match, per Simon Bird of the Daily Mirror:
There are not too many better partnerships in the country. Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney stand up there.
Those two are up with the best in the country and you saw that today.
They are two different types, which makes it hard for defenders. One has pace and power and two good feet, the other can shift his body very quickly.
The dynamics between them are very good. It is not something that has dropped in.
Rodgers will hope there are plenty more afternoons when the Sturridge-Suarez strike pairing proves a match-winner for Liverpool, particularly on days like Sunday when the team’s overall performance was lacking.
Liverpool allowed their beleaguered opponents 23 shots at Simon Mignolet’s goal and failed to control the match from a dominant half-time position when they led 2-0.
The likes of Victor Moses and Jordan Henderson failed to take advantage of several promising attacking positions, leaving it to Sturridge and Suarez to win the game by themselves—aided by the odd glorious 50-yard pass by Steven Gerrard.
Interestingly, Sturridge only had one shot in the match, which came off his arm as he turned home a first-half corner to hand Liverpool the initiative.
However, he leads the Premier League goalscoring charts with five for the season, while only Christian Benteke has scored more in the calendar year.
Which partnership is better?
Added to Suarez’s first goals of the season, the Liverpool pair have netted seven so far, one ahead of Rooney and van Persie, who have six between them.
The difference, based on both the Sunderland game and Suarez’s first outing of the season at Old Trafford, is the link-up play between the two partnerships. Sturridge and Suarez both make runs off each other as soon as their colleague gets the ball—a sight that excites Rodgers, per Bird:
Luis was getting the reward for his hard work in the period he was off. He and Daniel are a real handful and you can see the partnership there. The way they pass and move off each other …
They both want what is best for the team. That is important. But scorers want to score goals, they are judged on that and their assists. They can be individual, but none is bigger than the group.
By contrast, all of Rooney’s goals for United have come from free-kicks this term, while one of van Persie’s came from the penalty spot, and another was scored without Rooney on the pitch.
There have been signs of magic link-up play between the United pair—van Persie's volley against the bar from Rooney’s pass at home to Crystal Palace springs to mind. However, in general United have struggled in open play this season—failing to score since the opening day outside of dead-ball situations.
Liverpool currently top the Premier League standings for shots per game, averaging 19.4 efforts each match. United, by contrast, have only registered 14.8 strikes per game and trouble the keeper less than six times in 90 minutes—per WhoScored.
In a season that sees no clear favourite for the title, match-winners will make a huge difference between three points and one point in tight matches, and right now Liverpool appear to have the best in the country.