Suarez and Sturridge: Is Liverpool's Free-Scoring Attack Enough to Take Top 4?

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring the third goal with his team-mate Daniel Sturridge during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield on November 9, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

GOODISON PARK, Liverpool—Liverpool put three goals past Everton in the Merseyside derby on Saturday, with the deadly front duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge both adding to their tally.

It took the Reds' goal haul for the season to 24 in 12 games, leaving them joint-second-highest scorers in the league behind only Manchester City (28 in 11).

Sturridge and Suarez are also the top scorers in the Premier League now, with nine apiece placing them ahead of City's Sergio Aguero and Newcastle's Loic Remy (eight each).

Despite the Liverpool forwards and attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho finding the net against their derby rivals, the Reds only took a point as Everton twice came from behind, took the lead themselves and then conceded a late equaliser as the spoils were shared in a 3-3 draw.

With those defensive failings from set pieces in mind, the question should be asked: Is Liverpool's all-firing front line enough to see them home into a top-four position this season?


The Attacking Argument

Looking at Suarez and Sturridge's form thus far, there is reason to expect that the team can win any game by virtue of outscoring the opposition.

After their strikes against Everton, Sturridge now has nine in 12—one goal every 109 minutes—while Suarez continues his ridiculous form in front of goal with nine in just seven games. That's equivalent to a goal every 69 minutes since his return from suspension.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on November 23, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex L
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With Hull, Norwich and West Ham to face on the horizon, the smart money would be on him keeping somewhere around that level for a while longer yet.

Those two in good form, Coutinho returning to fitness (and the goal trail) and the continued, reliable delivery from Steven Gerrard certainly indicate that the Reds will continue to plunder goals and worry teams on a regular basis. Defence being the best form of attack is a ploy which could certainly lead the Reds to three points more often than not with the best pairing in the league in action.


Defensive Awareness

Of course, it has to be taken into account that somewhere along the line, the two forwards simply won't have the chances in front of goal they have been getting, or else their finishing touch will desert them.

Suarez currently yields a 23 percent shot conversion rate, with Sturridge almost level on 22 percent.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on November 23, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Lives
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It's not entirely likely that both forwards will end the season having netted better than one shot in every five—though with Suarez having an average of more than five shots a game so far, it would be a pretty incredible scoring tally for the season if he did.

At the other end, though, Liverpool conceded all three goals against Everton as a result of not being able to properly defend against set pieces. It's not the first time this season that the Reds have struggled in such circumstances, either.

Their record of 13 goals conceded this season places them in the top half, just about, but just one clean sheet since September also points to there still being plenty of issues to work on in the middle and defensive thirds.

Until January at least, when reinforcements may arrive, the Reds may have to rely on their front two regardless.


United's Precedent and the Reds' Rivals

Last season it was widely accepted in many quarters that Manchester United fired their way to the Premier League title courtesy of the extravagant and excellent signing of Robin van Persie.

As such, they simply out-attacked teams on a regular basis until they inevitably crumbled under the pressure.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 13, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Pho
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The argument is there, then, for Liverpool to do the same—by way of necessity rather than a full-on method of choice, admittedly.

Spurs continue to struggle to score goals, while Manchester City have suffered severely away from home. One or two missed opportunities elsewhere for other sides, and winning games even without defending all that well—see Sunderland and Crystal Palace as examples—could quickly make a big difference for Liverpool this season.

Another point taken in a tough away game has kept Liverpool in second place, averaging two points per game and looking good to take their top-four challenge into the difficult and intensive Christmas period.

Saturday was largely thanks to their goalscoring forwards, once again, and it might well be that, even irrespective of new defensive signings in January, that's Liverpool's best option for going forward as Brendan Rodgers continues to search for the right balance and quality in defence and midfield.


Statistics from WhoScored and Squawka.