Liverpool’s name among those in contention for a place in the top four come May has been greatly owed to by the scoring exploits of Daniel Sturridge. We already know what Luis Suarez is capable of – 23 league goals last season. But Sturridge, always in need of a solid run in the first team and prior to his move to Anfield always lacking, has proven himself to be a more than able supplement or substitute for the Uruguayan.
The Merseyside derby on the weekend was one of the Premier League’s standout matches up until this point of the season. But not only did it highlight the consistency of Liverpool’s attacking duo in front of goal, it also showcased the frailty of the backline when performing in high-profile matches.
There’s nothing wrong with advocating open, free-flowing football. More often than not, though, it’s married with a shaky defence that is prone to leaking goals. Everton may have scored three, but the opportunities presented to Roberto Martinez’s team could have increased their tally had, for example, Gerard Deulofeu taken his chances.
What has been perhaps overlooked from Liverpool’s surprisingly good start is the lack of options to add to the goal scoring contributions of Suarez and Sturridge. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the mentality of scoring more than the opponent over a watertight defence, but more is needed in the way of consistent scoring threats.
Sturridge and Suarez are among the top three leading scorers in the Premier League – Sergio Aguero is currently top – but beyond them, Liverpool’s next top scorer is Steven Gerrard with two in the league. It’s simply not enough to ensure a stay in the top four, especially during a league campaign where even at this stage there is little certainty about who will finish first.
Brendan Rodgers was clearly interested in Henrikh Mkhitaryan during the summer, losing out to Borussia Dortmund for the Armenian’s signature. At Shakhtar, Mkhitaryan proved himself to be a highly reliable source of goals from midfield. Rodgers also reportedly targeted former Shakhtar midfielder Willian, but the Brazilian never carved out a reputation like Mkhitaryan in front of goal.
Despite the additions of Iago Aspas and Victor Moses, it’s a sign that Rodgers is looking ahead to what this team are in obvious need of. Every good side has scoring options throughout the team. Liverpool have been aided by the lack of midweek commitments, but had they been without an entire week’s break between league games, there’s a real possibility that the goals from Sturridge especially would have dried up for a run of games.
What is also key in much of this is that Sturridge, regardless of what he’s doing so far, doesn’t have a reputation as a consistent goal scorer. His record may be impressive since arriving at Anfield in January – 19 league goals – but we have no reference as to whether he’s a striker who is prone to scoring droughts, nor can you ever really prepare for the injury of a key player.
Steven Gerrard isn’t what he was. It would be unrealistic to expect the Liverpool skipper to produce scoring in double figures as he has done in the past. He offers much to this youthful Liverpool side, but goals aren’t one of them.
In January, and with funds likely to be made available if it helps the team prolong their stay in the top four this season, another goal scorer, specifically a midfielder, is needed.
Rodgers has shown his tactical flexibility by switching formation to either include both Sturridge and Suarez in the first XI or just one, as he did against Everton. There is likely to come a point where one isn’t available, and with the deploying of Moses and Coutinho on the wings, there simply isn’t enough to guarantee maximum points each and every game.
Let’s also not look past the fact that there are some very good defenders in the league who are capable of keeping both forwards quiet for the entire ninety.
Nothing has changed in the fact that this Liverpool team is still a work progress: their current position in the league doesn’t alter the need for further investment and possibly replacements if Suarez eventually leaves. For now, countering an uncertain defence with further options in attack is a priority.
Do Liverpool need reinforcements up front?
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