In his weekly Liverpool blog, Dave Tindall acknowledges that Liverpool’s best chance of success without a regularly-fit Daniel Sturridge may be in the cups.
It was good to see Daniel Sturridge again at Anfield on Wednesday night.
And it was with a trademark Sturridge strike that Liverpool registered their second of the evening in a routine 3-0 FA Cup win over Exeter.
Unfortunately, (although I was chuffed for young Sheyi Ojo; one to watch I think), the swing of the left foot didn’t come from Sturridge.
He was sat in the stands with his girlfriend. Like all Liverpool fans, I’m wondering if he’ll ever come down again.
I’ve stopped myself from talking about him (my current favourite player) since this Red Letter column started back in September.
Like in any relationship, it’s easier to sweep things under the carpet when things aren’t working, but there comes a point when you need to get it all out in the open.
I feel it’s now; yes, the time has come to talk about Daniel.
Sturridge’s continued absence is killing me. It’s sad, it’s frustrating, it’s a little bit tragic.
I want the old Daniel back. The lethal goalscoring machine who netted after just seven minutes of his Liverpool debut and never let up.
Defences couldn’t stop him, but unfortunately injuries could. Since he and Luis Suarez ran amok in that glorious 2013-14 season, Sturridge’s body has failed him. For the record, he’s missed 76 matches through a combination of thigh (26), hip (14), ankle ligament (9), knee (8), calf (7), hamstring (10), dead leg (1) and foot (1) ailments.
Proven goalscorers mask a multitude of sins, and the agony for all at Liverpool is that they’re crying out for one right now. Christian Benteke isn’t even doing an impression of a Championship striker; when compared to the zippy, mobile, lethal Sturridge, the Belgian looks slow, cumbersome and blunt.
The Reds dominated every stat against what most regarded as a ‘bang-average’ Manchester United side last Sunday and yet lost the match because we couldn’t put the ball in the net.
How can we not think it would have been oh, so different with Sturridge in the side; even a semi-fit one.
Part of the huge tease is that he doesn’t need games under his belt to get the radar set.
After an hour against Norwich on his seasonal debut in September, next time out Sturridge banged in a classy brace in the 3-2 win over Aston Villa. And after just 17 minutes of action against Swansea City following a seven-week break, he turned the game against Southampton on its head, taking Liverpool from 1-0 down to 2-1 up with two deadly finishes in four minutes to spark a 6-1 thumping.
But since coming on as a 62nd minute sub against Newcastle later that week (December 6), we’ve not seen him again. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
It’s almost got to the point where just seeing him in the stands is reassuring. In my head, I’m starting to picture him permanently wrapped head-to-toe in bandages and being wheeled around by a helper.
The debate amongst Liverpool fans is should we just admit he’ll never be what we want him to be – our No.1 striker who plays the majority of matches – and get rid?
Most would probably still say not and, of course, who would buy him? How on earth is he going to pass a medical somewhere else?
Top four beyond Liverpool without Sturridge
But one thing is for sure. While it continues this way, Liverpool will remain a Cup team rather than one who can challenge for top four in the Premier League (as I said in earlier Red Letters, with Sturridge, a Champions League spot was a very realistic goal).
If so, does Jurgen Klopp now need to prioritise differently? When there are two games in a week – one league, one cup – should he not be resting the big names in the former and keeping them fresh for the latter?
Liverpool are in touching distance of the Capital One Cup final after beating Stoke City 1-0 away in the first leg of the semi, they have a fourth-round FA Cup clash with West Ham at Anfield and are also in the last 32 of the Europa League, facing a winnable two-legged tie against Germans Augsburg.
Klopp has a realistic chance of bringing silverware to Anfield for the first time since 2012 (Carling Cup final win over Cardiff) and that’s not be sniffed at. Trophies make memories.
The thing is, Sturridge could still be a big part of that and it’s why I wouldn’t even contemplate selling him.
The way he can hit the ground running when coming back from injury suggests Klopp could give him 20 minutes in a Premier League game and then wheel him out (not literally I hope!) for a final. Sturridge pings one in from the edge of the box, Liverpool win the game and the injuries and the agonies are temporarily forgotten.
Deep down, I know Liverpool have to fork out for a new top-class striker as huge doubts must surround Sturridge’s medium and long-term future, but cameos can still provide their weight in gold.
Ultimately, football is about putting the ball in the net, and rare jewels like Daniel Sturridge don’t come around very often.
Sure it’s frustrating, but let’s stay patient and treasure him because one flash of his foot could still turn this season from an average one to a memorable one.