Luis Suarez vs Daniel Sturridge: Does It Matter Who Ends Liverpool's Top Scorer?
For the first time in what seems an eternity for many Liverpool supporters, the Reds seem to suddenly have found themselves with a genuine two-man forward pairing where both players can score goals and contribute greatly to the all-round attack of the team.
Daniel Sturridge has been a complete revelation since signing in January from Chelsea, hitting 18 goals in 24 matches in all competitions and leading the Premier League this season in scoring with five in six games.
In addition to the England striker, the Reds welcomed back Luis Suarez to the first team following his latest lengthy ban, and the Uruguayan forward promptly bagged two close-range tap-ins against Sunderland at the weekend, with both set up by his strike partner.
The combination play and understanding between the two, which got several early showings last term—most notably perhaps against Norwich City—prior to Suarez's enforced absence, was very much on song at the Stadium of Light. The likes of Crystal Palace and Newcastle United, Liverpool's next opponents, will be extremely apprehensive at the thought of keeping the duo at bay.
Having two in-form forwards available brings its own set of problems though, with Brendan Rodgers having to shuffle his formation around to suit the pair of them. The question for Reds fans now must be: Which forward will be the highest scorer over the course of the season?
It's nothing so simple as a random wondering, which is really neither here nor there as long as one of them scores goals to win games, but actually a predicament that could impact upon the club's immediate future.
The change from 4-2-1-3 to 3-4-1-2 in recent matches is just one such example. In part forced because of injuries, Liverpool have nonetheless shown that playing two up top might be the way forward for the team.
If so, does Rodgers revert to type with a back four once Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Aly Cissokho are fit? Will that, in turn, mean less final-third options in wide areas of the field to create space and chances for the forwards?
Will the wide players in midfield have to work harder defensively to accommodate two central strikers? Perhaps most pertinent of all, where oh where is Philippe Coutinho supposed to fit back into the side when he recovers from his own injury?
Questions of formation aside, the front two themselves seem capable of organising their partnership during matches to decide who drops deep, who works the channel and who runs beyond the defence. The two have terrific in-game intelligence and constantly look for each other in the final third.
Indeed, the final goal of the day against Sunderland saw a pass from Suarez in a deep position for Sturridge over the top, before the No. 15 returned the favour for the No. 7, by then on the edge of the six-yard box, to tuck away his second goal.
Who will prove more reliable over the course of a whole season, however, will impact on which player is shifted wide right at times when the tactics need changing. It will impact which player is brought on as sub from time to time if they don't start every match, and it could of course also affect the team's capability of winning any given game.
Suarez with suspensions, Sturridge with injuries: Both have missed matches in the past year, and both will do so again at some point no doubt.
Keep them both fit and on form, and Liverpool will rattle the back of the net plenty of times this season.
Who will finish as Liverpool's top scorer in all competitions?
For now, it's enough to merely have them side by side leading the attack and, hopefully, putting a few more past the Reds' next opponents to continue the good early-season points tally.
Come the turn of the year though it will be interesting, and perhaps important, to look at the strike rates of both players as well as their overall game contribution.
Iago Aspas and co. wait in the wings for their own chances to impress, but finding a third player to rotate or replace either one of Sturridge and Suarez will not be easy without noticing a drop in quality.
It's seven goals for Sturridge and two for Suarez in all competitions so far. Last term, Suarez was the league's top scorer for much of the season and netted 30 in all competitions. It seems probable that, as of this moment, Brendan Rodgers has two 20-goal-a-season forwards on his hands.
How he utilises them, ensures the midfield provides service to both and keeps them both happy will likely have a profound effect on how well Liverpool's season pans out.
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