With Daniel Sturridge continuing to suffer bump after bump in the road to recovery, question marks over his attitude towards getting back on the pitch and becoming Liverpool’s number one striker had started to surface.
On Wednesday night Sturridge seemed to confirm that he was more than up to the challenge, by turning around the League cup tie at Southampton with two goals in four minutes.
Then again, it was a remarkable night for Liverpool. Divock Origi bagged a hat-trick and he’s far from an automatic starter.
If Jurgen Klopp manages to get all of his forwards fit at one time, he will certainly have a talented bunch to choose from, but is Sturridge a cut above? Enough to guarantee his place?
During Liverpool’s most successful season in recent years, the England man played a huge part for the side but his contribution was perhaps overshadowed by the exploits of the talismanic Luis Suarez who has since moved on.
Since then, with the Uruguayan having departed, his former strike partner has suffered a long list of injury complications. Liverpool fans have been yearning for his return to full fitness with the hope that it will elevate their side towards the top of the table once again.
It might just be that the Anfield faithful are about to get two of their greatest wishes at the same time. Jurgen Klopp’s arrival bringing about a positive sea change in style and fortune, coupled with a Sturridge firing on all cylinders.
Since joining the Merseyside outfit nearly three years ago the former Man City, Bolton and Chelsea man has been plagued by injury woe. He has though, scored 40 plus goals for the Reds despite his lack of game time with a goals to game ratio the envy of most top strikers. It seems, that when he is fit, he finds the net, as was the case on Wednesday evening.
Liverpool though, are not short of options in attack. Serious cash was splashed by Brendan Rodgers in the summer on Christian Benteke with, presumably, idea of partnering the big Belgian with Sturridge.
Benteke though has suffered some injuries himself and while he has produced a few goals and memorable moments, has made an understated start to his Liverpool career. Danny Ings was also brought in to re-enforce the front line but despite a promising autumn, has now been sidelined by injury himself.
Young Origi, was not considered an adequate alternative, until this week at least, having struggled to establish himself since his move from Lille.
Who starts up front when everyone is fit will to some extent depend on the formation with which Klopp decides to progress. The likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino will be deployed attackers too.
It is likely both will feature leaving only one space for a true centre forward. Past Premier League success would seem to dictate that place would initially be a battle between Sturridge and Benteke.
Until that point in time though, Origi may have a chance to change Klopp’s mind. The two more senior men might also make an interesting front pair, should Klopp prefer a 4-4-2. The additional string to Sturridge’s bow is that he is more than capable of operating wide of Benteke or anywhere across the front line.
It is not just his impressive statistics or his versatility however, that ensures the 26 year old will never be far from Klopp’s first team plans.
Sturridge has an “x-factor” that few players possess. He has an unpredictable nature on the pitch, a certain flair and not only the ability but the desire to step up and be a match winner.
His first goal at St Mary’s was a perfect example of what benefit these traits can bring to Klopp’s side. His first touch took him wide into a position which allowed the defender to recover, a position where most forwards would have turned back and looked for support.
The England man though, simply shuffled his hips, lost his man and dispatched an unerring finish almost effortlessly. A lack of match sharpness was not even up for discussion.
After the quarter final this week Klopp praised the forward while simultaneously perhaps revealed that he had been unsure about him so far. The former Dortmund boss told his much hyped hit man that he now knew “what everybody is talking about”.
It is this buzz of excitement which seems to accompany all talk of Sturridge among both fans and pundits which separates him from the pack.
While Liverpool have the makings of a side spoilt for striking options, the “Sturridge effect” could yet prove a critical factor in who starts at the front for both them and England.