What will the return of Daniel Sturridge mean for the Liverpool lineup?
By Dave Turner (@DTurnerSports)
As of Thursday, Daniel Sturridge is back at Melwood, training with the club after recovering from a March 25th hip injury that saw him go under the knife. Sturridge’s injury woes are prevalent, but that’s for another day. Though he’s been oft injured throughout his tenure at Anfield, he’s healthy, at least for the time being.
The talented striker is soon to be back in the fold, and it will give Brendan Rodgers yet another option up front. But, that added choice also comes with a plethora of possible roster decisions for Rodgers.
With the emergence of summer signing Christian Benteke, the talented young Belgian has certainly established himself as the go-to striker for the club.
Sturridge will be worked in slowly, but he’ll eventually have to fit in somewhere under some shape. The 4-3-3 shape that Rodgers has used for much of the season after a failed look at a 4-1-4-1 seems to be working with some success.
Let’s take a look at some options for Sturridge upon his projected return to the lineup for the Reds on September 12, at Old Trafford.
Let Sturridge come in as a late sub for Benteke
This one is complicated.
Yes, it makes the most sense to ease No.15 back into the lineup as a late sub for Benteke to keep the same shape, but doing so has to be intelligently approached by Rodgers.
The club, with all of the new signings, has been working to find offensive cohesiveness. Coutinho has been the catalyst and Roberto Firmino is beginning to find his touch, as evident by his scintillating cross to Benteke that was a beautiful Petr Cech save away from being a goal.
The point is, offensively, this team has been building (and improving) with the new signings and old mainstays beginning to find some form together.
To put Sturridge into the lineup late would certainly change the look of the attack, but it will also, in a sense, hit the reset button. For players like Milner and Firmino, they’ll have to adapt to playing with a player in Sturridge who is talented, but has a different skill set than Benteke. No longer will a lob into the box result in the amount of wins in the air that Benteke creates. The drawback is, subbing out Benteke will not only change the dynamic, but also may not sit well with the Belgian as he looks to truly find his form with his new club.
In some ways, Sturridge’s skill set seems to mesh with the idea of Firmino and Coutihno’s excellent ability to put skilled touches on the ball. Sturridge has the ability to make runs and find himself open to shoot in the area.
It is likely that we will see Sturridge come on as a sub for Benteke, but Rodgers has to be careful about managing the psyche of Benteke and how it will change the ever-progressing chemistry of the club up front.
Implement a 4-4-2 formation for both Benteke and Sturridge to play together
The days of a 4-4-2 seem to be gone, or at least out of favor, for now. Considering the fact that Liverpool has been so good defensively, it might be asking a lot to at least START a match with a much more offensive-minded shape.
Realistically though, there’s a lot of potential in playing Sturridge alongside Benteke.
Time and time again, we’ve seen No.9 win a ball in the area and flick it on to… no one. Nothing against Benteke, but there’s been a lack of support for him in terms of longer balls played into the box.
Adding Sturridge to the mix would allow Benteke to have someone to play the ball on to. Unlike players like Coutinho and Firmino who operate better with the ball approaching the area, Sturridge can and will make runs into the box. That skill should bode well with Benteke’s ability to win a ball and play it on.
With defenders having to mark Benteke ferociously because of his aerial prowess, accounting for Sturridge following closely will add another headache for opposing defenders.
The idea of Benteke flicking on a ball to Sturridge making a run into the box is one that could result in quite a few goals for the duo.
The only question is how willing Rodgers will be to use two forwards early. Realistically, it may be more of a late-second half option with the team needing a goal to either equalize or take the lead.
Also, the question of who to take off comes into play. Does Brendan take off a deeper lying midfielder such as someone like Henderson, or sub off a player like Firmino to try and keep the defensive look more intact?
There’s a lot of merit to this option because it gives the team two unique looks at forward, both of whom do different things well. The only drawback is, it’s a new formation and it would most likely come at some defensive regression.
Patience, Mr. Rodgers
If the team shows well with a result featuring a few goals against West Ham, there’s no real need to push Sturridge into the lineup for any time at all against Man Utd, especially if the club performs well from the outset at Old Trafford.
The benefit of this is that it allows the team more time to train with Sturridge and begin to find some cohesiveness without having to implement the striker right away.
The last thing this club needs is a knee-jerk reaction to insert No.15 into the lineup and perhaps stymie the progress of the offense. When the time is right, both for Sturridge’s fitness and the team’s play, then explore the option of playing Sturridge in one way or another.
Just because he’s back, doesn’t mean he has to see time right away. With all the new signings and the team off to a spectacular defensive start, Rodgers has to pull the trigger with Sturridge at the right time to maximize both his, and the team’s potential.
Finding a way to use Daniel Sturridge effectively, while keeping him healthy, should c make this team much more dangerous offensively, if it’s done right, and with the continued development of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, this club could have the offensive creativity they so sorely lacked last season.
What do you think is the best way for Brendan Rodgers to implement Daniel Sturridge in the coming weeks? Tweet us, or tell us on the forum.