Unconventional Suarez-Sturridge Pairing Just One Secret of Liverpool's Success

Dietmar Hamann@@DietmarhamannGuest ColumnistMarch 28, 2014

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 22:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates with team mate Luis Suarez after scoring his team's fifth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Cardiff City and Liverpool at Cardiff City Stadium on March 22, 2014 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have scored most of the goals and therefore taken most of the headlines and attention this season, but a real team effort has helped propel Liverpool into the Premier League title race.

Suarez and Sturridge are brilliant individuals, but it is the rest of the team that are creating so many chances for them, and therefore the platform to steal the show.

Philippe Coutinho has done okay at times this season, but I think Raheem Sterling has played a big part; he’s been a brilliant support player and key factor in them scoring so freely because he can stretch teams with his sheer pace, trickery and movement. He has been outstanding in the last few months.

Liverpool also have very good passers in the middle of the park with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson. The latter pair have come on leaps and bounds this year and have helped get the ball in the right positions so that Suarez and Sturridge have been able to take over and demonstrate their clinical edge.

Their conversion rate has been brilliant, they are bang in-form at the moment and they only seem to need one chance to score.

Everything builds up-pitch towards them, and they are there to take advantage. Liverpool commit players forward; sometimes you get teams that are a bit more cautious and only three or four players going forward, but Liverpool these days are attacking in numbers, in fives and sixes, and that gives space and time for the two centre-forwards when the other players also need to be picked up by someone.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 26:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Jordan Henderson (l) during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on March 26, 2014 in Liverpool, Engla
Michael Regan/Getty Images

It’s hard to compare them with Liverpool partnerships of the past, because they are not a “conventional” partnership in that sense—they provide each other with a few goals but more often other members of the team are involved.

The best partnership we probably had at Liverpool during my time was Michael Owen and Emile Heskey. That was a proper, conventional partnership in the sense that Emile held up the ball and made space for Michael, and when he flicked the ball on Michael knew where it was going to drop—which has often been the blueprint for many strike forces over the years.

Michael Owen also got the majority of the goals, which is often what happens with little-and-large strike forces like that, or when you've got a creator sitting behind a poacher.

Now with these two, I think that because it is not a conventional partnership and they are both looking to create and score chances for themselves, they are both scoring a lot of goals (although Suarez has a few more).

In a true partnership strikers tend to complement one another, whereas these two more or less play their own game most of the time.

12 May 2001:  Michael Owen of Liverpool celebrates his equaliser with team mates Emile Heskey, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler in the AXA Sponsored FA Cup Final against Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Liverpool won 2-1. \ Mandatory C
Ben Radford/Getty Images

They do work well together in a different way: They manage to stay out of each other’s areas so they can both play in their preferred manner—which is an achievement in itself. Considering that, the form they are in at the moment and how good they are, when they are both on the pitch they can both score, which is such a nightmare for opposition defences to try and deal with.

The added benefit is that they don’t really rely on each other in any meaningful way. When Suarez was out at the start of the season Sturridge was scoring in his absence, and then when Sturridge went out injured for a period Suarez was still scoring freely.

So not only do they play together but they can also score when the other is out, which is a real benefit for Liverpool in continuing to have a real threat even when injuries and suspensions hit.

Obviously in light of this season people are starting to talk about their place in the list of Liverpool’s greatest strikers, but you need to be careful to rush into those sort of statements. Considering the quality of Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and others I think they will have to do it over a number of years to be classed the best partnership in the club’s history.

They’ve still got a long way to go but are on a very good path—and what you can safely say is that they will certainly go down in history if they lead the side to the league title.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 22:  Brendan Rodgers the manager of Liverpool looks on from the bench during the Barclays Premier League match between Cardiff City and Liverpool at the Cardiff City Stadium on March 22, 2014 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Michael St
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Manager Brendan Rodgers has to take his fair share of the credit for that shot at success, though. There has been some talk this week about the fact he only has just over a year left on his contract at Anfield, but I am sure Brendan is happy where he is, and I cannot really see him moving anywhere.

He seems to be really happy at the club, so I don't think there is anything to worry about with his contract situation. It looks like a perfect fit between club and manager, and I think it makes sense for both parties to leave contract talks until the end of the season because there is no point being distracted by it all now.

Liverpool have got a glorious chance to win the Premier League for the first time in over 20 years, so why take focus away from that to deal with something that can be easily sorted out in the summer?

The Reds face Tottenham at the weekend, where the future of Rodgers' opposite number, Tim Sherwood, is in far more doubt.

It’s only normal that there’s talk about Louis van Gaal or someone else coming to White Hart Lane in the summer, but it’s very hard from the outside to say whether the players have lost faith in Sherwood. We only see them playing each week, whereas I’m sure the people in charge have a better idea of what is going at the training ground and in the dressing room

This is a big run-in for Spurs and Sherwood, which is why Liverpool cannot underestimate them. If Spurs have a good end to the season and maybe sneak into fourth spot, as unlikely as that is, then Sherwood will certainly be there again next season. But even getting close to that spot might earn him the chance to start the new season.

A lot will depend on those last few games, but you have to say that at the moment it is unlikely that Sherwood will be there next term.


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