It’s no secret that Liverpool have had a dismal start to their season. Their only convincing performance was against Aston Villa in which Daniel Sturridge returned to the starting XI and scored twice (3-2). In the past, Liverpool have won less than half of their Premier League games when he was not present. Dogged by injuries, he was the consistent power up top that the club lacked after Louis Suarez moved on to Barcelona. His return may prove pivotal. Some pundits are suggesting that manager Brendan Rodgers’ job is in imminent peril. What Liverpool need are confidence and more importantly, goals.
Certainly previously Raheem Sterling provided goals (12 last season) and Phillipe Coutinho can provide stunning long-distance goals (8 last season) but they both lack Sturridge’s consistency. With the departure of Sterling to Manchester City the Reds have added Danny Ings (11 goals last season) and Christian Benteke (16 goals last season). When fit, in 2013/14 Sturridge scored 24 goals in all competitions plus 4 more in international play. His return may give the squad the confidence boost they desperately need to revive their flagging season. No doubt, under-fire manager Brendan Rodgers would appreciate that.
Thus far, the Reds start has been poor. They slipped by an out of form Stoke City (1-0) in the opener, then beat a newly promoted Bournemouth (1-0). Next they drew against Arsenal (0-0) before suffering back to back defeats to West Ham (0-3) and Manchester United (3-1). Two more draws against Norwich (1-1) and Carlisle in the League Cup (1-1) have left many fans wondering where it’s all going wrong and whether Brendan Rodgers’ time is done.
Rumour has it that the Merseyside derby may be the deciding factor. Clearly, the squad has talent. With Sturridge, Benteke, Coutinho (out with a red card from the Aston Villa game), Moreno, Milner, Ings, the excellent new addition in Nathaniel Clyne, and yes, even Mario Balotelli the talent is there.
They do have some defensive frailties however as the back line sometimes allow strikers far too much time. Ever present centre back, Martin Skrtel, is too often inconsistent in marking and shutting down attacks. He has a habit of alternately playing his man so tightly and aggressively that he gives away free kicks or losing concentration altogether and allowing his man to slip into dangerous territories. At left back, Dejan Lovren, while a quality player in general has committed some shocking errors. He appears so focused on building the attack that he seems to forget that he must play defence as well.
Defensive issues aside they do create opportunities. Now, they need to convert those opportunities into goals. If Sturridge can stay healthy and match up with Danny Ings up top Liverpool’s season could be bright indeed. They currently sit in 9th place with only 11 points out of 7 games. It’s still early in the season though and 9th place means little. There’s plenty of time for Brendan Rodgers to sort out the squad. Keep Sturridge healthy and a run into the top four is not out of the question.