Back in 2009, Liverpool came agonisingly close to winning the Premier League title in what would of been our first in 19 years. Rafa Benitez had assembled a great team that only saw defeat twice in that entire season.
There are many reasons why we didn’t win the title that season. Too many home draws, two less and we win on goal difference. Others claim injuries to key players was a factor with Gerrard missing 9 games and Torres 14. With poor squad depth and a so called ‘two-man team’, it certainly didn’t help. And then there are those who think a press conference in which some factually correct statements were read out is what ultimately cost us the league.
Two of those reasons certainly are valid (with one being absolutely ludicrous) yet in my opinion there was one factor that prevails over all others, or should I say four? Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov.
Manchester United were current European Champions and were on their way to another final that year. They were an infallible juggernaut that just kept on winning and winning. Ten victories by a 1-0 score line, with a further six games by a one-goal margin. One of their fabled front-four had a hand in scoring in 24 of the 34 games United scored that season.
Liverpool on the other hand were the league’s top scorers, yet beyond the front four in Torres, Kuyt, Gerrard and Benayoun (who weren’t all strikers), there was a massive drop in goals. It’s really no surprise when Torres was injured and his replacement was David N’gog. Liverpool that season only failed to score in 6 games, but crucially only had four 1-0 victories with a further five by a one-goal margin. Of the 32 games Liverpool scored in, one of their top four goal scorers scored in 26 of those games.
Liverpool were top scorers in the division, our top four scoring players scored more than Manchester United’s so how did they win the league?
Total reliance on one player
Ferguson was the master at grinding out a victory, no matter what he’d find a way to get all 3 points, and key to that: having four world class forwards. Of the 16 one goal victories, one of Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez or Berbatov scored the winner in half of those, with a contributing goal in another. Take one or two of their four out of their squad or swap one for David N’gog and I’ve no doubt in my mind that we win the league.
Which leads me on to the current squad and in particular Daniel Sturridge. Injuries have plagued him now for over 18 months. Hip, knee and hamstring injuries have restricted him to just 24 appearances in all competitions in that time. Reports in some quarters were suggesting he wanted to quit Liverpool with insinuations of a lack of desire seemingly upsetting our star player. This stemming from fans aggravated by his supposed £150,000 a week wages.
The problem doesn’t come from Sturridge not playing, the problem is the total reliance on one player. It’s a sad indictment on our recruitment policy when injury to one player within a 30+ man squad means we are short of quality striking options. Instead of selling Daniel Sturridge, we should be complimenting him with equal quality (or better, if attainable). Do that and when he is inevitably sidelined, we’ll have adequate replacements.
When he is fit, we’ll have a selection of quality players to win us any giving game i.e. a good selection headache for Klopp.
The need for depth
Let’s play Football Manager for a moment and imagine we sign Lacazette and Icardi this summer with Benteke and Balotelli leaving. Liverpool go into the season with Sturridge, Origi, Lacazette and Icardi as options (Ings still an unknown quantity at this moment and possibly will be deployed in a role similar to Dirk Kuyt or Jakub Błaszczykowski by Klopp). We would be able to fight on four fronts with injures and suspensions covered. Depth in attack is something the club has lacked since boasting the likes of Fowler, Owen, Heskey and Litmanen.
With squad depth at Klopp’s disposal, he could unleash another weapon on apposing Premier a League managers. Ferguson was renowned for his triple substitutions and if games weren’t going to plan, he’d bring on e.g. Giggs, Berbatov and Tevez. The opposition’s hearts just sank seeing that trio waiting to come on.
Imagine we’re chasing a lead and are able to bring on Lacazette, Icardi and say, Markovic. Beats bringing on Benteke, Lallana and Allen when trying to get a result. I’m positive it would mean more points for Liverpool.
Why calls to sell him are nonsense
I’m a big believer in better players equal better results. While managers, tactics, formations, work rate etc are hugely important, simply having a better eleven players then the opposition is easily the biggest factor in winning a football game. So why oh why would Liverpool contemplate selling one of our better, if not best players? With the squad at Klopp’s disposal we are desperately in need for more quality players, not less. The notion of selling him makes absolutely no sense to me at at all.
If people genuinely do want Sturridge sold, then I think they need reminding of this:
The goalscoring leaders for Liverpool (first 50 league games) plus other notables (courtesy club statistician Ged Rea):
George Allan – 40
Jack Parkinson – 35
Tony Rowley – 34
Jimmy Ross – 34
Daniel Sturridge – 33
Fernando Torres – 33
John Evans – 33
Jimmy Smith – 32
John Aldridge – 31
Robbie Fowler – 30
Dave Hickson – 30
Albert Stubbins – 30
Tom Reid – 30
Roger Hunt – 29
Kenny Dalglish – 27
Michael Owen – 27
Ian St John – 22
Gordon Hodgson – 21
Ian Rush – 21
Luis Suarez – 20
John Toshack – 18
Billy Liddell – 13
Kevin Keegan – 11
And compared to Suarez and Torres:
Daniel Sturridge is a 20+ goals a season striker, and they don’t grow on trees. He doesn’t need to be sold. Liverpool need better strikers to cope in his absence – it’s that simple.
Written by Chris Steel
Follow Chris on Twitter @chris7steel
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