Should Daniel Sturridge’s hamstring problem sustained during Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Manchester City force him out of Liverpool’s Premier League title run-in, you could write the sensational headlines now: “Reds Rocked,” “Major Blow,” “Title Chance Lost.”
That’s just the nature of modern football journalism, where sensationalism sells. Look deeper at the issue and Liverpool have already proved they are more than capable of coping should Sturridge be sidelined.
Of course, the situation is far from ideal. Were it not for Luis Suarez, Sturridge would be a prime candidate for PFA Player of the Year, having scored 20 goals in 26 Premier League appearances. Squawka indicates that he created a further 27 goal chances.
Gary Taylor of This Is Anfield pointed out that Rodgers lacks many striking options from the bench:
A look at the bench from Sunday’s game reveals that the options in the striking department are lamentably short. Iago Aspas, Liverpool’s current third choice striker, has hardly set the world on fire since his arrival in the summer.
Changing The System
However, Sturridge’s potential absence may simply make Brendan Rodgers’ selection decision for him.
With midfielder Jordan Henderson suspended for this Sunday’s trip to Norwich City, the home clash against Chelsea on April 27th and Crystal Palace away in early May, Rodgers may switch his system around, just as he has been so versatile with many times this season.
Effectively, Rodgers would revert to a front-three system of Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling with Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva ahead of the deep-lying playmaker, Steven Gerrard, in midfield.
Sturridge missed eight games over the Christmas period with an ankle problem, but pragmatic Rodgers adapted his system and Liverpool scored 21 goals in his absence, including some high-scoring victories over Norwich, West Ham and Tottenham.
Players To Step Up
With or without Sturridge, Liverpool’s position as league leaders with four games to go means all players are required to step up to the challenge.
Sterling has shown in the second-half of the season that he has matured way beyond his 19 years, displaying intelligence and carrying Liverpool’s attacks forward with ferociousness.
The composure he showed to bide his time and slot the ball past Joe Hart for Liverpool’s first of the afternoon against Man City embodied the phenomenal progress he has made.
Adding goals to his game this campaign, with eight in all competitions, Sterling can provide the finishing ammunition that Sturridge so frequently provides.
During Sturridge’s absence over Christmas, Suarez really stepped up his game, playing some of the best football of his career with 11 goals in eight appearances.
Suarez will be relishing the opportunity to be the only leading man again and finish the 2013/14 campaign with a flurry of goals—and hopefully silverware.
Rodgers has built a small, but versatile and cohesive squad this season, which has been the key to its success.
Having dealt with missing the likes of Suarez, Gerrard and Sturridge for periods during the campaign already, should the England international striker be missing, Liverpool will cope comfortably, just as they have before.