It’s been three seasons now since Daniel Sturridge looked, consistently, like one of England’s best strikers. Meant to be the man to carry Liverpool’s attack following the departure of Luis Suarez, instead he spent much of Brendan Rodgers’ final full season in charge of the club out injured.
When Jürgen Klopp arrived, the situation was the same. In his absence, fans could recall his scoring feats and build an image in their minds of an unstoppable striker. A striker who, if he could only remain fit, would lead the club to greatness. If that striker ever really existed, he doesn’t any more.
There will still be the odd moment of brilliance; those times when Sturridge shows off his pure finishing skill. Physically, though, he appears a spent force, unable to run the channels. And it is becoming increasingly hard to believe that he will ever find his form again, even if he can stay fit and is given chances to.
“Sturridge is a complete different player now to when he first came to Liverpool,” noted former Red and current Sky pundit Jamie Carragher following the latest disappointing showing for the striker. He believes that Sadio Mané is now the man who provides the pace Sturridge once did.
“You could link him with Sadio Mané when he first came, because the whole point of Liverpool buying Sturridge was that he gave us penetration; he had pace. I don’t know if his pace has complete gone or if he’s worried about injuries so he pulls out, but Sturridge isn’t the player to run in behind now.
“You can forget about him replacing Mané. All he does is come to feet now. More often than not you cannot question his finishing, but he doesn’t do anything else in a game now whereas he did when he first came in. When he doesn’t score you are basically down to 10 men.”
Sturridge was given a handful of opportunities to run behind the Southampton defence on Wednesday, and on each occasion he failed to test their defence. Most of the time, he preferred to drop deep, asking for the ball while in traffic. When he did get it, he was too often dispossessed.
He now looks static, unable to beat defences with pace and lacking the confidence to beat them with skill, and Liverpool look a worse side for his inclusion. The experience of watching him try to lead the line has become not so very different from watching Christian Benteke or Rickie Lambert do so.
It’s been nearly three full seasons now since Liverpool have seen Daniel Sturridge look like the player so many still imagine him to be, at least with any consistency. That is the sad reality of the situation, and wishing it were otherwise isn’t going to change that it is so.