It’s kind of an oxymoron to suggest that a striker can be the person to solve a soccer team’s defensive issues. Sure enough, Daniel Sturridge coming back to Liverpool and becoming the healthy Sturridge of old this past weekend against Aston Villa, completely made people forget about the ineptitude of that Liverpool back line.
Against Aston Villa, Sturridge scored two goals, and they were great goals, en route to a 3-2 win. Aston Vila scored twice via some very embarrassing defensive play but at least Liverpool is scoring goals again.
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Even during Liverpool’s 2nd place run in the 2013-14 Premier League season, Liverpool’s backline was prone to mistakes. It all got masked because Luis Suarez was on the team with Sturridge right beside him and underwent a “the best defense is a great offense” mentality and were focused on outscoring their opponents no matter the score. And it worked. Liverpool didn’t win the EPL title but they finished 2nd after everyone thought they were going to fight for a 4th or 5th place position.
Once Suarez was sold to Barcelona and Sturridge kept getting injured, Liverpool struggled. Their defensive output never changed from 2013-14 to 2014-15 but they scored a lot fewer goals in the latter year. This was because Suarez was much more than a goalscorer, he was the focus of a defense and by being heavily covered, guys like Sturridge, Coutinho, Sterling and even Henderson were free to attack and score. When Suarez was sold, Liverpool lost that player everyone on the other side feared and it exposed everyone, including the back line. A healthy Sturridge can maybe do something similar and help out guys like Benteke, Firmino and Ings to outscore the opposition, but while Sturridge is incredibly talented, even he isn’t a Ballon d’Or finalist like Suarez is.
So is a healthy Daniel Sturridge the man to solve Liverpool’s defensive woes? I would like to watch more than one game before saying that this the case. Liverpool played a struggling Aston Villa team for one game, there is very good chance that is a fluke for Liverpool. A repeat performance in the Merseyside Derby will be more convincing.