Was the creative play against Aston Villa the beginning of a positive change?
By Dave Turner (@DTurnerSports)
Though his tenure at Anfield has been marred by injuries in the past, one thing is for certain: a healthy Daniel Sturridge can yield spectacular results for the Reds.
Scoring on a silky-smooth give-and-go from Phillippe Coutinho and an equally as impressive feed from James Milner, Sturridge displayed the ability to make a pass and play himself open to score, but the question now is if he can be the difference maker in the lineup.
There’s no coincidence that the first time that Liverpool came away with more than one goal this season was the first 90-minute performance from No.15 so far this season.
Some players are scorers, and great ones at that, but others tend to raise the level of play of those around them. Chalk Sturridge up as the latter. Liverpool are a much stronger side with a healthy Sturridge in the lineup, because he brings an element of skill that no one else quite possesses. He has that ability to raise the team’s level of play.
James Milner played his best game since his transfer, scoring a goal of his own in just the second minute and then playing the ball brilliantly into the box to Sturridge for what was the first two-goal lead that Liverpool had enjoyed ALL season.
For Coutinho, the reemergence of Sturridge will undoubtedly take some pressure off of the young Brazilian. We’ve seen No.10 become a bit shot happy over the past few weeks, firing some balls way wide from spots that perhaps he would have done better to be more patient from. The amount of shots is understandable, considering the club’s inability to threaten offensively. Though the burden as been on Coutinho, he simply looks his best when we has the 26-year-old Birmingham native to work some skilled touches to or in the case of the Aston Villa match, a no-look give-and-go that beat Brad Guzan.
The other factor into all of this is where Christian Benteke fits into this mix. Though there are some who are already calling for the benching of the former Aston Villa striker in favor of Danny Ings, it’s a bit premature for that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sturridge and Benteke together can be devastating. Sure, the young Belgian has struggled at times early on, but his skill set compliments that of Sturridge so well. With Benteke’s ability to win the ball in the air and flick it on, or put a ball on net, it adds another diverse dimension to the Liverpool attack. Imagine Coutinho with space, just outside the area with an option to either lay a ball up to Benteke or to find Sturridge on a run. That kind of attack, if the synergy emerges, would be very hard to defend.
The pressure is still there for Brendan Rodgers and one win against Aston Villa isn’t exactly going to release the pressure valve on his position as the manager of this club. As much as the last result was promising, a terrible showing on Sunday could all but seal his fate, even still. But, what we saw against Villa was a competent side that looked markedly better (minus the inability to mark Gestede not once, but twice).
Now, they must build on that effort, with the Merseyside Derby coming as the perfect second act to the first multiple-goal output of the season. As much as it’s been a roller coaster so far, there are reasons to be optimistic with a big clash at Goodison Park coming on Sunday.