Daniel Sturridge might not kick a ball again this season according to Brendan Rodgers. He’s barely touched one all campaign anyway.
Just two 90 minute appearances in the league since August. Four Premier League goals. Twenty-one matches in which he hasn’t featured at all, a number which is now almost certain to grow. The tale of the tape is a sad one and ultimately tells the story of Liverpool’s campaign of regret and regression.
So vibrant and full of life in 2013/14, this season’s Liverpool have come to mirror the one we saw in Rodgers’ first year in the job; slow, with predictable build-up play and featuring fleeting appearances from Fabio Borini.
Back then it was accepted as we all knew just how big a rebuilding job the Northern Irishman faced, and whilst the apparent failure to reach the Champions League has got some calling for the manager’s head, you have to accept that he’s been dealt a bad hand this season.
Chief amongst the misfortunes has been the fate of Sturridge.
What Rodgers would give to wind back to the end of August, when a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City was swiftly forgotten about thanks to a 3-0 trouncing of Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
It was Mario Balotelli’s debut, and both he and Sturridge operated in a clever front pairing ahead of a midfield diamond; Steven Gerrard sane and sitting, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson scampering and creating and Raheem Sterling shining at the tip of a structure which looked as though it was here to stay. This was last season’s Liverpool. It should have been more than 3-0. Hope was back in hearts.
That Sturridge didn’t play again for Liverpool for exactly five months has been blamed on a variety of factors.
Roy Hodgson’s decision to make him undertake extra training after an England friendly against Norway was the chief one considering that the forward broke down during it, and then there was Liverpool’s methods in recovering his fitness and also Sturridge’s apparently weak mindset when it came to stepping back out onto the training pitch.
Whereas last season the forward could apparently run through brick walls in the pursuit of goals and points, now he seemed to be holding himself back.
Indeed it is to Rodgers’ great credit that by the time he finally returned, and scored, against West Ham in late January that Liverpool had found a way and a formation in order to get back on track – albeit with Champions League humiliation and another Premier League title challenge having been lost along the way.
Sturridge was able to start the wins over Tottenham, Burnley and Swansea in the league as well as the defeat to Manchester United and a couple of FA Cup games, but although he looked lively at times and scored a couple of goals he still seemed to be something of a ghostly presence. There in body but not quite in mind, spirit and indeed willingness.
This is a huge summer for him, and one in which he might find his status as the Reds’ No. 1 forward under threat.
Liverpool are sure to be linked with plenty of attacking talents because that’s how the rumour mill works. It is there to sell papers and drive hits to websites, something that stories about the Reds do better than most.
What Sturridge needs to do, though, is ignore all that.
He needs to spend a summer resting, recuperating, and reminding himself of the form which saw him become only the second player in Premier League history to net in eight games in a row in 2013/14, during which he won two Player of the Month awards and beat several Liverpool icons to various goalscoring records.
This is the Sturridge that Liverpool need to see next season if they and he are to realise their potential under Rodgers.
The forward might not feature again during 2014/15 but that needn’t be a bad thing, as for both him and his club the end of the season really can’t come quick enough.
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