September 29, 2018. Stamford Bridge. Chelsea versus Liverpool. The Reds were trailing the Blues by a 25th-minute goal from Eden Hazard. Desperate for an equaliser with the time running out, Jurgen Klopp made his final roll of the dice as he replaced James Milner with Daniel Sturridge.
86′ Final #LFC substitution. Sturridge for Milner. Less than five minutes remaining here.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 29, 2018
In came the England international who scored against the same opposition in a losing effort in the Carabao Cup third round a few days ago. With his introduction, it could be that Klopp was thinking Sturridge could carry over that goalscoring form to the repeat fixture.
Just three minutes after his introduction, receiving a routine pass from Xherdan Shaqiri, Sturridge took a quick survey of the situation. As he put his gaze back down on the ball, out of nothing, he unleashed a strike a few yards out of the penalty area that caught everyone by surprise.
As the ball traversed its path, it had enough power, speed and most importantly the trajectory that somehow lobbed over a helpless Kepa Arrizabalaga who could only flail his arms into the air as the ball flew past him and into the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool had equalised!
Eventually, the match ended in a draw, denying Chelsea from ending Liverpool’s perfect record in the Premier League.
— Mick Quinn (@mickquinn1089) September 30, 2018
It looked like the vintage 2013-14 version of Sturridge is back and for good which could only bode well for Liverpool’s on-going league campaign.
Lethal but fragile
A deadly striker prone to injury, Sturridge has been immensely reliable when it came to scoring for his teams (when healthy)! But niggling injuries, mostly muscular problems, hampered a big chunk of his potential playing time for the Merseyside club. The aforementioned season was the only tenure when the Englishman experienced the least injury-related hiccups as he produced his most prolific output for Liverpool.
Frequent spells on the sidelines for rest and recovery put him down the pecking order as Klopp acquired reinforcements to the frontline like Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and last season’s attacking sensation Mohamed Salah.
A proof of his frequent absence is, given he’s already in his fifth year at the club, he has only managed to amass a relatively paltry 103 appearances.
But 50 goals (and counting) despite that low number of playing time (at almost 0.5 goals per game rate) proves the quality he possesses as a striker.
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 30, 2018
But the last two matches against Chelsea who are considered one of their closest rivals to the Premier League title, it seems Sturridge is back to his old form and probable full-fitness.
Such a situation gives a strong case for Klopp to put him as a regular starter in the upcoming matches and not just as a “super sub”. This would also mean that the competition for places in the attack has just been upped a notch as Mane, Firmino and Salah aren’t untouchables for this still very young 2018-19 season.
Swiss army knife frontline
With Sturridge showing that his niggling injuries are a thing of the past, if he could sustain this level of fitness and his goalscoring form, then it’s bad news to the other clubs.
It only means that the Reds now have a legitimately potent set of options and contingencies up front if any of their strikers hit a barren spell.
Liverpool’s supply of goals for this season’s campaigns (not just in the Premier League) will most probably be assured.
The only thing that would stop them from that, is if Sturridge’s frailty to injuries returns to the fore to torment him and his club once again.
Related reading: Liverpool Fab Five: The Reds’ overwhelming firepower