DANIEL STURRIDGE IS BACK IN, SO WHO’S GOING OUT?

The Bib Theorists

Now that Daniel Sturridge is back fit and firing, somebody needs to make way from the eleven that has started the majority of recent matches in his absence. John Cullinane tells us who he would replace if he wears in Brendan Rodgers’ shoes.

The return of Daniel Sturridge has thrown up somewhat of a delectable dilemma for Brendan Rodgers. Sturridge made his long awaited this past Sunday against Stoke City, making an immediate impact by coming off the bench to assist Luis Suarez wonderfully before getting on the score sheet himself with a well taken goal, one which ultimately secured three points for Liverpool. Considering he was out of action for a sizeable six weeks, nobody could have expected such a fruitful return. The half-hour that Sturridge was in action for last weekend just rubber-stamped the fact that Liverpool have a “potentially world class” striker on their hands, as Rodgers touted in his recent press conference.

Even with the supernatural form of strike partner Luis Suarez, the return of Sturridge adds extra spice and potency to the Liverpool attack. In recent months opposition defenders have only had one objective: Stop Suarez. One by one they are throwing their arms up in the air asking ‘What could we have done about that?’ as yet another goal from the Uruguayan finds the net. Now, to compound the defenders’ misery, they have another striker to rattle their nightmares and with very good reason as a quick look at the Premier League Top Scorers table shows that the two strikers have 32 goals between them in league games this season!

The comeback of Sturridge will also free up more space for Suarez to work his magic, which is a scary thought to say the least. The pressure and expectation can now be shared. With these two back in formidable tandem, fans can realistically dream of the Champions League once again.

In this feature I am going to look at how I believe Daniel Sturridge will fit back into the system and who will lose his place in the current team to accommodate the striker. The virtually un-droppable Jordan Henderson and the return from injury of club captain Steven Gerrard are central to Rodgers’ vision for the rest of the season so I cannot feasibly see either being dropped. Subsequently, here are the three possible candidates that I can see missing out:

Phillipe Coutinho:

Our Brazillian magician is still finding his feet at his relatively new club and at the mere age of 21, time is unquestionably on his side. Coutinho’s form has been quite patchy as of late with wayward shooting and his usual defence splitting passes seemingly availing him. Although a main feature of the midfielder’s exquisite passing was the intelligent runs of the aforementioned Sturridge, so maybe we can forgive him? The return of Sturridge could quite possibly revitalise Coutinho as the two had an almost telepathic partnership for the whole of 2013. Then again, Coutinho was substituted for the Englishman on the hour mark this past Sunday so Rodgers might see a spell out of the side as the best thing for the Brazilian. Unlike the Liverpool manager though, I would definitely keep Coutinho in the side as he always has an inch perfect pass in his locker, and with the movement of SAS ahead of him, ‘Cou’ can undoubtedly thrive.

Lucas:

Lucas found himself in a relatively new role this past Sunday. He was in a more advanced centre-midfield role, completely different to the anchoring defensive-midfield position he has become accustomed to at Liverpool. In all honesty, he predictably didn’t affect the game in an attacking sense whatsoever. The soon to return Joe Allen would be evidently more suited to this role, and with Gerrard in his new and effective deep-lying playmaker spot, the writing could be on the wall for Lucas before even considering Sturridge! This is not an unfair accusation either as Lucas has struggled for form this season with midfield compatriots Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen continuing to improve whilst he stagnates. For me, a midfield three of Gerrard-Allen-Henderson could prosper. The energetic pressing of the two CM’s and the technical class of the captain is definitely a scenario to be considered. With an imminent home tie against struggling Aston Villa an attacking approach could be favoured by the Liverpool manager. This would ultimately leave the defensive-minded Lucas sitting on the bench.

Raheem Sterling:

Raheem Sterling is playing out of his skin at the moment. He seems to have sorted out whatever personal issues plagued him earlier in his Liverpool career and is now fully focused on his football. The young starlet’s past individualistic style of play has left him and he is now a winger with much more to him than just sheer pace, although he seems to have become even quicker, which is a scary thought in itself! He is very aware of space, he has become a lot more intelligent in his attacking play and he has forged a positive relationship with Suarez. One positive of Victor Moses’ poor form is that Sterling has now been given his berth. I feel it needs to be said that with all the praise and adulation Man United’s Adnan Januzaj has been getting, Sterling deserves virtually the same. Januzaj is playing well in a team full of strugglers whilst Sterling is playing with the headline-maker Suarez so he will inevitably come under the radar. The potential of the promising Englishman is frightening and one would forecast that he will be mentioned in the same breath as players like Januzaj in the near future, if he’s not already. One would see Sterling as one of the first name’s on the team-sheet given recent performances and I expect that to continue.

So, after much review and consideration, I feel that Liverpool will shape up for the majority of the rest of the season – barring any new signings or injuries of course – as a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 with Gerrard and Henderson in midfield, Coutinho and Sterling on either side with Suarez and Sturridge up front

I realise that is an attacking line-up but I feel that in most games home and away against lower level opposition, I think we can be this aggressive. In the games versus our top four/title rivals, I’d expect either Allen or Lucas to come in for either Sterling or Coutinho.

One thing is for sure, Daniel Sturridge will be right back in the thick of things and Brendan Rodgers will have no problem replacing him for anybody, and like I said earlier, I presume this will be Lucas at the weekend against Aston Villa.

Let’s now look forward to the rest of the season with hope and expect Sturridge to continue his unbelievable scoring form, rocketing himself up the golden boot stakes to presumably finish second behind You-Know-Who!

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