At his best, there was a case for Daniel Sturridge’s being the best striker in Premier League. At his best, he was a player who could have walked into any starting eleven in the world. Sadly, following a string of injuries, that best hasn’t been seen—at least not with any consistency—in close to three seasons.
And because of that, things are likely to get a little bit awkward for the club and player. If not now, then in the summer. Because Daniel Sturridge is too good a striker to be third choice, but nothing in his past three seasons at Liverpool makes a good case for Jürgen Klopp giving him a larger role than that.
“I know Daniel won’t want to be third choice, and I know he won’t want to be a bit-part player,” was former captain Steven Gerrard’s take on the matter when he appeared on BT Sports following last night’s FA Cup third round victory over Plymouth Argyle, and it’s hard to disagree with him on that.
Yet it’s clear that, when everyone is fit, Roberto Firmino is Klopp’s first choice to lead the line—and Liverpool have looked their best by some margin this season when the attacking talent of Sadio Mané, Philippe Coutinho, and Adam Lallana are allowed to play off of his movement and pressing.
When forced to change, Klopp has then turned to Divock Origi, who provides pace and channel running that Sturridge does not. Or that, at the very least, Sturridge hasn’t shown in recent years. His talent in front of goal remains undeniable, but it’s easy to understand why he has ended up third choice.
“I’m sure he’s going to keep an eye on what happens between now and the end of the season, and then he’ll have to maybe make a big decision,” Gerrard added. “But if you’re Jurgen Klopp you want to keep him because on his day he’s world class.”
On his day he is, but those days have been few and far between for nearly three seasons now. If Sturridge is happy to be an option—and just an option—going forward, that might be fine. If he isn’t, then it’s likely in the summer there will only be one decision he can make.