For once, Liverpool got the right man in the January transfer window.
Well, the jury is still out on him, but he has made all the right moves since his £12 million switch from Chelsea earlier this month.
Daniel Sturridge’s instant impact—two goals in two games—and the potential lethality that his partnership with Luis Suarez could have on opposition defences leaves supporters really excited about the future.
A fairly improved second-half showing against Manchester United at Old Trafford, in which Sturridge scored the consolation in an eventual 2-1 defeat, justifies that Liverpool are right in pinning their hopes on the 23-year-old to push them closer to the top four.
Rodgers’ team lacked the teeth up front and have lost or drawn several games this season despite being in a commanding position.
Increased possession stats did not matter, as the club relied heavily on Luis Suarez to create magic all on his own. However, the Uruguayan was only too obliging and has since put to rest all criticisms about his shot conversion with a tally of 19 goals.
One more strike for Suarez, and it would be the first time since Fernando Torres in 2009-10—Rafa Benitez’s final season in charge—that a Liverpool player would have breached the 20-goal-a-season barrier.
However, with Sturridge’s inclusion, Liverpool can have their hopes up. Because in Sturridge, they have a man who would score them that extra goal that they have badly needed in situations that would have gone either way.
He is the man to score that one goal that would tilt the scales in favour of a Liverpool victory or yet another pulsating draw.
Let’s take a look at their contrasting yet complementing styles of play.
In Suarez, you have a striker who is not only a goal-getter, but also a creator.
Suarez creates opportunities both for himself and his teammates out of nothing. When Suarez is on the field, defenders cannot take a single half-chance lightly.
In Sturridge, you have a customer who can boast of technique with pace.
He may not be the Filippo Inzaghi or even a Javier Hernandez type poacher. He wishes to be the second coming of Thierry Henry, a player after whom he has modeled himself.
But if he perseveres, there is no doubt that Sturridge can touch the levels set by the great Frenchman.
On the other hand, both are flair players.
While Sturridge prefers to execute his fair share of flicks, step-overs and dribbles, Suarez is the undisputed nutmeg king.
And both can strike the ball with some brute force, technique, creativity and effect.
On a perfect day, defenders would have trouble marking Luis Suarez because of his movement.
Top that with Sturridge’s pace, intuition and attack positioning, and we have a deadly combination, folks!
Now, the pairing of strikers is nothing new.
Liverpool and, indeed, English football’s great history in general are laden with tales of strike duos hunting their opponents.
Anfield’s lore speaks of the great partnership between John Toshack and Kevin Keegan back in the '70s.
It was a classic big-and-little-one combo, a pairing that Liverpool most recently attempted to replicate with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.
However, it backfired spectacularly on previous manager Kenny Dalglish.
It is important to understand that the fault was not in the idea but in the choice of players. Primarily, Carroll’s mobility (or lack thereof) impeded any chances of making the partnership work.
However, modern-day football has players such as four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi who have managed to put the traditional strike partnership—and indeed the strikers themselves—out of the equation.
Spain, during Euro 2012, played Cesc Fabregas up front as a false No. 9. Roberto Di Matteo deployed Eden Hazard in a similar role, which eventually played a part in his sacking!
Most recently, Liverpool utilised Jonjo Shelvey in such a capacity against West Ham in the Premier League and Young Boys in the Europa League, with decent results.
Strike partnerships thus have become a sort of dying breed in the Premier League, with very few managers holding on to its values.
As far as Liverpool is concerned, the pairing of Emile Heskey and Michael Owen, dating back almost a decade, was the last time that folks at Anfield saw a deadly duo.
Manchester United’s 1999 treble-winning team also had some of the best strike partners in the squad.
However, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s employment of Javier Hernandez alongside Robin van Persie has shown that the idea is still devastatingly powerful enough to wreak havoc on defences.
Brendan Rodgers’ idea is just a rehash of this tried-and-tested formula.
And what is Liverpool’s advantage in pairing up Sturridge and Suarez?
Well, that has a lot riding on Suarez in that he doubles up and can pull the workload expected off of a winger, trequartista and an out-and-out striker all on his own.
And with Sturridge to support him, expect goals and nothing less.
In many ways, the Sturridge-Suarez partnership has all the potential to blossom well.
Think Kenny Dalglish-Ian Rush, think Luis Suarez-Daniel Sturridge. Although, the new generation has a long way to go to match the accolades won by the former in tandem.
In the hullabaloo surrounding Sturridge’s impact on arrival, most tend to forget the return of Fabio Borini.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Daniel Sturridge may not have the qualities of a poacher in him. Fabio Borini certainly does.
He is the next generation Pippo Inzaghi, only a few years away from being the finished product.
This leaves Liverpool with a plethora of options.
Brendan Rodgers can opt to play a front three of Borini-Sturridge-Suarez or make Sturridge and Suarez play off of Borini up front, although this should be an option for the future.
Sturridge and Borini together up front, with Suarez playing just off of them, is yet another option at hand for Rodgers.
And with support coming in the wings to go with the distribution powers of Steven Gerrard from the midfield, Liverpool would be absolutely menacing going forward.
That would leave Liverpool lacking in only the physical aspect of the game.
Fabio Borini has yet to open his Premier League account for Liverpool. But the Italian is back from a fracture in the leg and looks rather ready to get going.
And if the Italian can cough up 10 goals or so from the remaining matches in the competition, then Liverpool can still begin to dream.
Because it still is not too far away, yet!