Sturridge must show fight to claw back into first XI
Liverpool striker needs to reinvent his game to revive Anfield career
ROUND OF 16
(Daniel Sturridge 9, 64)
(Vincent Janssen 76-pen)
In an ideal world, Daniel Sturridge would have worked his way back into Juergen Klopp's first 11 plans.
A dynamic display that showcased his superb finishing prowess saw the Liverpool striker score the two goals that downed Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-1 victory yesterday morning (Singapore time) to send the Reds into the last eight of the League Cup.
However, the 27-year-old England man will, more likely than not, find himself seated on the bench when they resume Premier League action against Crystal Palace on Sunday morning.
Sturridge is thriving in a competition which top-flight teams have come to use as a testing ground for their second stringers.
He is the luxury in the final third of the field which Klopp clearly still thinks he can't afford.
Despite his two-goal heroics, he wasn't the darling of the Kop.
The thunderous ovation was instead reserved for Divock Origi, the Belgian who tormented Spurs with his speed, trickery and, most crucially, industry.
It is probably the one quality Klopp values above everything else in a forward.
It is why Sturridge, who doesn't boast of a solid work-rate, has fallen down the pecking order at Anfield.
Klopp's counter-pressing strategy has flourished this season.
It focuses on getting back the ball instantly after it has been lost and, for the tactic to work, the hard work has to start from the front.
One chink in the armour is all it takes for the entire system to collapse.
Sturridge's four starts in nine Premier League matches show that he isn't quite the vital cog in the engine that he used to be.
Club legend Mark Lawrenson wasn't too surprised to see him on the sidelines, calling him "a bonus" to have off the bench.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live after yesterday morning's win: "He had an effort with the outside of his boot in the second half and I can't think of many players in the Premier League who could come up with that.
"But he has to have more bite and fight about him."
Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness feels that unless he improves his work-rate, he is unlikely to start too many games this term.
He said: "When you look at Sturridge, the first thing you see is his ridiculous technique.
"He's as good as anybody.
"The second thing you see is that you would never describe Sturridge as busting a gut.
"He's got wonderful qualities but, unless he can find that energy at this stage of his career, he's not going to be a starter here."
Yet, when Sturridge's silky skills are in full flow, it's hard not to be captivated.
His ninth-minute strike yesterday morning highlighted his predatory instincts, stabbing the ball home after Marko Grujic's effort was deflected into his path.
And, when Georginio Wijnaldum delivered a perfectly timed through- pass in the second half, Sturridge showed his class by calmly slotting the ball through Michel Vorm's legs to double his side's lead, before Spurs hit back from the spot through Vincent Janssen.
It's looking increasingly unlikely, though, that Klopp will bend over backwards to accommodate Sturridge despite his gift.
But, as Jermain Defoe, 34, showed last season, it's never too late to reinvent one's game.
Not one known for his selfless running previously, the 1.71m-tall marksman returned from a Major League Soccer stint with Toronto FC a different player, and fired in 15 Premier League goals to help keep Sunderland in the top flight.
The question is whether Sturridge has the appetite for a fight.
His Anfield future depends on it.
The game was what I expected, in a positive way for us. Then, for part of it, we lost concentration and caused our problems by ourselves. Overall, the summary is very positive — a deserved win.
- Juergen Klopp (above)
- Arsenal 2 Reading 0
- Bristol City 1 Hull 2
- Leeds 2 Norwich 2
(After extra time, Leeds win 3-2 on penalties)
- Newcastle 6 Preston 0
Klopp: Daniel has nothing to prove
Juergen Klopp insisted he needed no reminders of Daniel Sturridge's goalscoring prowess after the England striker fired Liverpool into the quarter-finals of the League Cup at Tottenham's expense yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Sturridge was a constant threat at Anfield, scoring in each half, striking the crossbar and missing at least two more clear chances in the 2-1 win.
But he has yet to score in the Premier League this season and was an unused substitute in last Saturday's 2-1 defeat of West Brom, with some inferring that Klopp's dynamic forward line has now outgrown him.
But, having changed his entire starting 11, the German was fully appreciative of the 27-year-old's skills.
"That's his talent," Klopp said of Sturridge's knack in front of goal.
"That's his strength, he's a finisher, a really good striker... no doubt about this.
"I never was in doubt about him even when he didn't score. Not a question.
"Divock Origi didn't score tonight, but I think he played quite well, Danny Ings didn't score, but played really well when he came on.
"That's the thing with Daniel, he's a wonderful goalscorer and that's really important."
Klopp, like Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, threw several inexperienced players into his starting side. Local boy Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria and Kevin Stewart all did solid work for the team and rewarded their manager's faith.
"I thought before the game it could work with them in the team," he said.
"If it wouldn't have worked, that's my responsibility because I made the line-up, but every positive is absolutely for the players.
"They're good boys, it's good news for Liverpool."
Pochettino, whose team created some late tension after Vincent Janssen's penalty, had a different view of Alexander-Arnold's contribution.
He felt the 18-year-old was lucky to receive only a yellow card for a first-half challenge on Ben Davies and felt aggrieved by the behaviour from the Liverpool dugout in the closing stages.
"In the first half, the fullback, Arnold, should be sent off for the big tackle, the bad tackle," he said.
"It was a little bit strange at the end. The (Liverpool) bench started to complain about us.
"You should stay calm. It is the referee who is the authority to say it was or it wasn't, it was or was not a penalty. You need to focus on the game. At the end of the game, they started to complain about one action that was a normal foul."
On his own young players, including the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Harry Winks and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, he added: "They are very important for our future, to be a better squad.
"I think it was a fantastic opportunity to show their quality and a great experience to capitalise on, to take positive things for the future." - PA Sport.