Liverpool's New System Should Be a Perfect Fit for Returning Daniel Sturridge

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2015


Daniel Sturridge's long-awaited return to action took another step nearer this week, with the England forward pictured at Liverpool's Melwood training ground, posting a "selfie" with skipper Steven Gerrard upon his return (as per the Daily Mail).

Incredibly, the 25-year-old hasn't featured for the Reds since last August after suffering an injury while on duty with England in September, then suffering another in training on his return in November.

Since then, the former Chelsea forward has been receiving specialist rehabilitation in the United States, working with trainers in both Los Angeles and Boston, before returning to England last week.

Sturridge's return should be this month and be within two weeks, according to David Anderson of the Mirror.

That means he could be back for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against his former club on January 27 or possibly even feature from the bench the weekend before that at home to Bolton in the FA Cup.

Whenever he does return, it will be a welcome addition to an improving Liverpool team and attack.

Bogdan Maran/Associated Press
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Much has changed on Merseyside since Sturridge last featured for Liverpool; back in August, optimism remained high, and his partnership with Mario Balotelli in their outing together against Tottenham Hotspur showed great promise. Now, five months on and Balotelli is yet to open his Premier League account.

Meanwhile, Gerrard has announced his retirement with England and had his deep-lying playmaker role scrapped.

The biggest and perhaps most significant change, though, has been over the past month since Brendan Rodgers introduced a new formation to his side.

The 3-4-2-1 shape has seen huge improvements in both results and style of play. Speaking after the introduction of this, in the League Cup win at Bournemouth, Rodgers said (per The Guardian):

The other night it was a British coach playing 3-4-3 so he has probably thrown the team together. 'He has played seven midfielders?' If it was a foreign coach it would probably have been seen as a wonderful tactical idea of playing the game. 'Sterling playing through the middle – what is he doing? [Lazar] Markovic out wide?' But that is the key for us – trying to get the players in position who can make us effective.

Having three centre-backs, plus the protection of Lucas Leiva in midfield, has added great defensive stability, while the two attacking midfielders have offered support to the forward.

Markovic is just one of the players to have benefited from the change in system, impressing in his new wide midfield/wing-back role. Martin Skrtel has looked far more assured with Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho on either side of him, while Philippe Coutinho's form has dramatically improved, as explained by Jack Lusby at This Is Anfield.

What to expect after Sturridge's return

Jon Super/Associated Press

So just how will Sturridge fit into this new system?

The answer—quite simply, he should fit in perfectly.

Rodgers turned to Raheem Sterling as the forward in mid-December, coinciding with the change of system, with Adam Lallana and Coutinho supporting him in attack.

Sturridge's return, though, can see Sterling return to a slightly deeper role, just off the forward, and more akin to how he was deployed with good effect in the latter stages of last season.

Back then, during those heady, title-chasing days, Sterling occupied the No. 10 role at the tip of Liverpool's midfield diamond, with Sturridge and Luis Suarez ahead of him. That triangle now will effectively be inverted, with two (attacking midfielders) behind one (forward), rather than one (attacking midfielder) behind two (forwards).

The prospect of Sturridge up front, with Sterling and Coutinho behind him, is certainly an exciting one.

Rodgers also has the options of Lallana and Gerrard in those attacking roles and equally can still push Sterling into the attacking role when required in order to rotate Sturridge.

Equally, Rodgers will have the option of pairing Sturridge and Sterling as a potentially lethal front two, that would require a change in system, but it's at least another weapon in the manager's armoury.

After a difficult end to 2014, 2015 certainly looks brighter for Liverpool. Well, provided they can keep Sturridge fit...