Many clubs in the world would be massively enriched with a lethal weaponry of striking force if they had Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi in their teams. The two Liverpool strikers, both proven goal scorers, have found game time hard to come by this season due to the brilliant football and versatility of Roberto Firmino, the current occupier of Liverpool’s lone striker’s position in Jurgen Klopp’s preferred 4.3.3 formation.
Jurgen klopp, it must be said at once, is not a manager to be accused of partiality in the selection of players for a game of football, but he certainly has a partiality for a central forward with specific attributes. As it stands at the moment, Roberto Firmino is the striker in his current team that has the attributes he desires in a striker to lead his attack.
Firmino, who Klopp has used as a false number nine this season, is a player endowed with an embarrassment of football techniques that allow him to function in any position in the attacking line. In addition to his proficiency in goal scoring, the Brazilian is adept in the defensive aspect of the game which enables him to prevent the opponents from building up play from the rear. During match situations he shows an uncanny understanding with his fellow Brazilian team mate Philippe Coutinho that can be arguably described as being telepathic. In a word, Firmino’s football skills are legion. This is why Klopp has consistently used him ahead of Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi.
The situation Liverpool have found themselves in respect of the selection problem that arises in the striker’s position is usually called a problem that very coach loves to have. However, the duo of Sturridge and Origi are just too good to be on the bench waiting for cup matches or when Firmino would be rested due to injury or indisposition before they can play. Let us briefly consider the immediate effect of keeping the two strikers on the bench till such a time that Klopp deems it fit to recall them to the starting lineup.
Daniel Sturridge position in the starting eleven of England national team is already threatened by the emergence of Jamie Vlardy, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford to the scene. His continuous presence on Liverpool’s bench will do no good to his standing amongst his competitors in the national team. At twenty seven years, he is at an age that footballers are usually at the peak of his career. And player of his pedigree should play regularly in order to hone his skills as his comes up against the challenges every game offers. The pertinent question that would exercise the mind of the reader at this juncture is – does he deserve to be in the starting eleven? The question does not admit of a yes or no answer.
Sturridge has a legitimate reason to call for his inclusion into the team starting eleven – the striker has scored four goals in the cup matches he has started this season. That aside, the ex-Chelsea man scores all types of goals, has a passing range that can split the tightest of defensive formations and his goal per match ratio for Liverpool since he joined from Chelsea ranks amongst those of the club’s past prolific central forwards.
In spite of Sturridge’s obvious talents, he almost as good as useless in defending, and he does not press the opponents’ defenders when they are in possession of the ball. This weakness is the main reason Firmino is above him in the pecking order of Liverpool’s strikers. Sturridge, for all practical purposes, is not the caliber of players to reinvent his style to fit into the high pressing game that Klopp demands from his players.
Divock Origi finds himself in a similar situation as Sturridge in Belgium’s national team. At the moment, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi are all hot contenders for the striker’s position in their national team, with Lukaku the preferred candidate. So keeping Origi on the bench will deny him the opportunity to impress his coach on a regular basis, and it may even lead to him be refused a call up for national assignments in future. Some people may argue that he is a young man with time on his side, but that position is untenable: Origi has shown in time past that when he is given a run of games he can be as effective as any striker in the game of football. And amongst Liverpool’s strikers, the skillful Belgian is the one who has attributes similar to those of Firmino and he can give the Brazilian a stiff contest in the team’s starting eleven as the season progresses.
The writing of the piece took a slight alteration when word got round that Danny Ings has suffered a season-ending injury. Had his injury not occurred, he would have figured prominently in this write- up. Danny Ings – I must say quickly and briefly, due to the brevity of time and space – is a striker of high quality. Ings would certainly have joined Sturridge and Origi on the bench, waiting agonizingly for game time had injury not set in days back.
The task before Klopp now is to find a way to give Sturridge or Origi game time on regular basis before they become rusty on the bench. Brendan Rodgers was faced with a similar challenge in the 2013/2014 the season that Liverpool almost won the league. Then it was problem of how to use Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge at the same time. Rodgers simply tinkered slightly with his formation and brought the two strikers into his starting lineup, and the experiment yielded positive results in the field of play. However, the qualities of players in Liverpool’s current squad do not allow for such an easily solution.
Currently,Liverpool are so blessed with good players in every position that the inclusion of Sturridge or Origi would result in dropping one player from the current starting eleven.This is a very difficult course of action for Klopp to take because the team has been performing very well since the commencement of the season; and there is a consensus in most competitive sports that – you don’t change a winning team.
There are two prominent formations that would allow for the inclusion of Sturridge or Origi while the starting lineup still would have its major players retained in the team.
A 4.3.3 formation, which Klopp often uses, would allow for Sturridge or Origi to be included in the starting lineup, this would require the trio of Philippe Coutinho, Firmino and Sadio Mane supporting the striker from the mid-field. The use of this formation would also mean that Adam Lallana, who has been so important in Liverpool mid-field, is left on the bench. It is also a formation that makes use of two mid-fielders; the quality of teams in the EPL makes it very unwise to use two midfielders in a game.
Another formation that would enable Liverpool to add an out-an-out striker to the starting lineup is the 3.5.3 formation. This formation would have the Red using Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren as the three defenders; Alberto Moreno/James Milner and Sadio Mane would play as wing backs; the midfield would be manned by – Emre Can/Georgino Wijnaldum and Henderson; the three attackkers would be – Sturridge/Origi, supported at the two flanks by Coutinho and Firmino. This is a formation that would enable Liverpool to integrate a striker to the starting lineup without exposing the mid-field to much danger because the wing backs would be set up to assist with defensive duties at the middle of the pitch.
The responsibility of finding a way of bringing Sturridge or Origi into the starting line up on a regular basis is simply that of Jurgen Klopp. The astute German tactician has shown in his short Liverpool career that he knows his job and that his judgment in matter concerning football can be relied on. The coming months will bring to light how he going to handle the issue raised in this piece. It is my implicit belief that if both strikers continue to be given part role to play in the team as the season rolls to it inevitable completion, the two of them, Daniel Sturridge especially, would agitate for a move to another club where they would be given regular game time.