Monday, 2 February 2015

What Makes Daniel Sturridge such a rare breed?

Liverpool is a club that in the past has been the breeding ground of strikers and striking partnerships in general. From Ian St John and Roger Hunt to Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish; from Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen to Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez, there have been a plethora of world-class strikers that have come and gone from the Merseyside club.

The most recent example to follow suit has been Daniel Sturridge. Signed from Chelsea in January 2013 and viewed as a ‘gamble’, Sturridge quickly put rest to all doubters with an astonishing scoring record. Despite numerous injuries and setbacks, he has always come back and done the thing he loves doing: scoring goals. Sturridge recently came back after 5 months out and took only 12 minutes to score a goal against West Ham. But, why have the other strikers at the club not been as prolific as Sturridge has. Kop Chants takes a deeper insight into what makes Daniel Sturridge a rare breed.

Daniel Sturridge has been one of Liverpool's most prolific

The other main strikers currently at the club are Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli. They cost close to 30 million and transfer fees and have not even been close to replicating the return Sturridge provides. But, why is that. They all play with the same teammates, formation and manger. They all receive the same service. So, why is it that only Sturridge can score goals.

It is not that the aforementioned three are bad players. On the contrary, they are good players that have played for some of the best clubs in the world. Borini has played for Chelsea and Roma whereas Balotelli has won titles at Man City and Inter Milan. While Lambert might not be held in the same regard, he notched up a pretty commendable total of close to 20 goals/assists last season for Southampton. Past strikers like Andy Carroll and Robbie Keane have also failed after coming in with big reputations. For every Luis Suarez, there has been a Florent Sinama Pongolle and for every Fernando Torres, there has been an Andy Carroll. Why are good strikers so hard to find when there are so many around?

While some might argue that players like Balotelli and Lambert do not ‘suit the system’ at Liverpool, that is a tired and worn out excuse that just does not explain the situation anymore. While there is no doubt that these players excel in certain systems that might be different to the one Liverpool uses, there is also no question that these players have done what has been asked of them before. Balotelli has led the line for his country Italy as well as for AC Milan and Lambert led the line for Southampton last year. These are players with goals and experience under their belt so just plainly saying that they are not suited to the system is not really pertaining to the truth.

The first aspect that separates Sturridge and other world-class strikers from the rest is adherence to basics. While this might seem fundamental to a professional player’s existence, the fact is that it is very rarely done. Sturridge rarely does anything complex or over intricate. He just sees an opening and shoots. He does not look to get the perfect goal and his sole objective is to beat the keeper. It seems trivial in theory but in reality it is difficult to execute. The toughest things in life are often the simplest ones and the striker situation illustrates that. This is also shown by the fact that Sturridge has the least shots to goals ratio showing his prowess.

A situation that I find interesting is that of Luis Suarez. While he has left the reds as one of their most prolific goal scorers, it should not be forgotten that during his first full season, Suarez was profligacy personified. Instead of keeping things simple, he would always go for the outrageous or the spectacular. It was only after Brendan Rodgers came that Suarez became the prolific behemoth we know him to be. While most take Suarez’s transformation to be improvement in skill, I attribute it to simplicity in approach. One prime example of this was when he scored a goal against Wigan by wrong footing Ali Al Habsi. Instead of trying to go for the audacious chip, he waited and seized his opportunity when Al Habsi went to the ground. These nuances separate the good from the best.

Another notion that might seem basic in its functioning is that of the shot. The simple fact is Daniel Sturridge shoots more and therefore gets more goals than his fellow strikers. Sturridge takes 3-4 shots on average per game whereas Rickie Lamber takes only 2 shots. While Balotelli takes 4 shots on an average, most of them are audacious tries from outside the box ( close to 3 of the 4 shots). The  fact is that Sturridge forces the goalkeeper to act and do work. It is all well and good mulling over where to shoot but in the end it has to work the goalkeeper and Sturridge does that on a consistent basis. Instead of dawdling over the ball, Sturridge is proactive and always on the move. These are in no way difficult techniques but the best strikers execute them with consummate ease.

But, the most important aspect of a striker is most definitely the ability to be in the right place at the right time. While goal poachers are less in fashion now days, their success was attributed to their awareness. The instinct to be in the right place at the right time is a very difficult task and very few can do it easily. However, from his stint at Liverpool, it is clear to all that Sturridge has the awareness and the striker’s instinct to be a world-class striker. While Lambert has awareness, he does not have that gut instinct that Sturridge possesses. For example, none of the other strikers at the club could have scored the goal Sturridge scored against West Ham. The awareness of where the goalkeeper and defenders were is not something that can be taught. It is just pure intuition and that is why I believe Sturridge is a rare breed.
Borini and Balotelli have ground to cover

The simple fact is that for Liverpool to succeed, it has to get two to three world class strikers and unless Balotelli, Borini or Lambert up their game, Liverpool will have to go into the market. These players cannot be trusted on right now and neither can Sturridge because of his injury issues. So, it is imperative that Liverpool get that striker quickly. All the other top teams in the world have two to three top strikers and for Liverpool to be in that bracket, they have to follow suit.

Who do you think Liverpool should buy that can fill the boots of Sturridge and be as prolific? Do you think the others are good enough? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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