When Luis Suárez left, Daniel Sturridge must have thought his chance finally came to be the club's main striker. 35 goals in 49 appearances in all competitions from January 2013 to May 2014 was comparable with Liverpool's illustrious marksmen, but injuries restricted Sturridge to 17 appearances last season and just eight in this campaign so far. Sturridge returned and scored over the weekend, but what can Liverpool expect from the 26-year-old this season?
Divock Origi is a talented 20-year-old, Christian Benteke isn't quite the answer, and the surprisingly promising Danny Ings' season was ended in October. Fitness permitting, Origi will surely play a role for the remainder of the season. Sturridge, however, is absolutely essential to Liverpool's ambitions. Aston Villa may be the Premier League's basement side, but Sturridge proved that the encouraging signs at Upton Park earlier in the week were real.
The speed, movement, finishing, skill, technique, understanding, and hunger were all on display from a striker who has scored against a whole range of Premier League sides in a Liverpool jersey. Liverpool were also boosted by the return of Philippe Coutinho, but Jordan Henderson -- the club captain -- was clear on the importance of the former Chelsea and Manchester City striker.
"He makes a huge difference," Henderson said. "You can see in the games that he has played how much he has been missed. He has been brilliant since he has come back training and is looking really sharp. Hopefully he can continue to stay fit and cause problems when he plays.
"Everyone knows how good he is but because he has been out for a while, you do forget the quality he has got and how good he actually is. There are lads in training who maybe haven't seen that much of him and they have been very impressed. Then you look at him in the games, with his movement ... his sharpness is top drawer. He is a massive bonus for us."
Henderson went on to praise Sturridge's qualities as a player, noting that "finding consistency and staying fit" is the striker's "biggest problem" moving forward. That consistency of playing games and training for the remainder of the season combined with a solid pre-season could be crucial for a player who turns 27 in September. His peak years -- with not much mileage in his career -- should be for the remainder of his contract. Yet there are unhelpful and somewhat suspicious suggestion about the player's attitude that Henderson was keen to address.
"I've known Studge for years and I am quite close to him," Henderson revealed. "I have been with him a lot while he has been out. You have to understand he has been more frustrated than anyone at being out. There is a lot gets said about him outside of our group.
"I know it hurts him and I know it is hard for him to take. He is doing things to try and get back. He doesn't want to be injured. He is more annoyed than anyone that he isn't playing. But now he is back, he has got a smile on his face."
The rest of February is filled with Europa League action against Augsburg and a Capital One Cup final against Manchester City. Silverware and continental progress are at stake, and maybe those who have doubted Daniel Sturridge will be reminded of his qualities as a player and positive member of the squad before the end of the month.