Fantasy Football

How Daniel Sturridge became ‘Kop’ Dog and why Liverpool will continue to lick their wounds without him…

How Daniel Sturridge became ‘Kop’ Dog and why Liverpool will continue to lick their wounds without him…

How Daniel Sturridge became ‘Kop’ Dog and why Liverpool will continue to lick their wounds without him…

Liverpool were like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale brew in the 2013/14 season, but so far in the 2014/15 Premier League season they have been far from inspiring.  Brendan Rodgers was under no illusion that this season was going to be a difficult transition losing Luis Suarez to Barcelona and trying to strengthen a leaky defence whilst filling a hole of gargantuan proportions in the striking department.  Some eyebrows were raised with the signing of Ricky Lambert, a cheap short term fix that was more likely to be a an option for a different approach from the bench when a little more muscle was required in the last 20 minutes of expiring games.  Then, Rodgers amazingly announced the signing of Mario Balotelli and the Anfield faithful were divided in their opinions of a volatile striker, although most were in agreement of his undoubted talent.  Few, if any would have thought their beloved Merseyside team would be sitting 8th the Premier League table with just 4 wins from 11 games and a goal difference that is in negative equity in early November.

Liverpool are almost the masters of their own downfall in as much that the expectations were raised beyond previous aspirations with their amazing top 2 finish to last season’s Premier League title race.  However, despite the loss of Suarez, many people felt that Liverpool would be all the stronger this season, but that has just not been the case.

So where should the blame lie for such a lacklustre start to the season for Liverpool?  Is it just a tough run of fixtures?  Is it that Brendan Rodgers has replaced a talented but disruptive influence with another talented (but a little less so) disruptive influence?  Is it the lack of fitness to their top scorer from last season, Daniel Sturride?  Perhaps it could be argued that all three of these have had their effect on Liverpool this season, but I would argue the latter has had the biggest impact of all!

Mario Balotelli has come in for some serious criticism since his high profile move from AC Milan but let’s be honest, he is the same player that he has always been – Liverpool knew what they were letting themselves in for.  The start of the Premier League season for Liverpool was actually quite positive with their first three performances bringing just that out of the players – performances.  A 2-1 home win against Southampton which with hindsight looks like a very good result, followed by a 3-1 away defeat to Man City (but a good performance) and then a 3-0 away win against Spurs was a decent return of 6 points from 9 with 3 tricky fixtures.  However, since then Sturridge has not featured and Liverpool have only won 2 games out of 8 since.  Clearly, Liverpool are missing the ex Manchester City and Chelsea forward.

A quick glance at any social media platform whilst Liverpool are playing will quickly give you a snapshot of the thoughts of many of their fans, and some are starting to turn on a manager who has always been held in high regard and who steered them to their best ever Premier League finish.  Some fans are also starting to question the automatic starting place that their talismanic captain, Steven Gerrard holds down and clearly the club are in turmoil – the sort of turmoil that surrounds Premier League clubs who go for a few games without a win rather than the kind of turmoil you might find in any other walk of life mind!

Liverpool still have creative sparks in midfield with the likes of Sterling, Coutinho and with the added addition of the underused Lallana there is enough to provide support to a potent attack, but the attack has pretty limp since the injuries to Sturridge.  Whatever your opinion of Balotelli this has made the start to his Liverpool career even more difficult.  Many people believe that if he plays in a two pronged attack he is a lot more effective, and he certainly hasn’t thrived in a sole striking berth.


Daniel Sturridge vs Mario Balotelli

Given the change in fortunes since Balotelli’s arrival and Sturridge’s injuries it is worth looking at the different impact they have in games:

Sturridge vs balotelli

Liverpool vs. Southampton – August 17th with Daniel Sturridge


This was Liverpool’s first home game of the season where they secured a good 2-1 win against a well drilled Southampton team.  Let’s leave the goal to one side for now, without this you can see the contribution that Sturridge made to the team.  He had one shot from within the box in this game, but it is the work he did on the rest of the pitch that made the difference.  He was the sole striker in this game and obviously had to work hard, with the majority of his passes going forwards to other players.

If we take a look and compare this to Balotelli against Chelsea on Saturday then we can see a stark contrast in terms of contribution.


Balotelli vs sturridge

Balotelli performance vs. Chelsea 8th August


You can clearly see that Balotelli has had less touches than Sturridge but you might expect that against Chelsea.  He has not had a single shot in this game but more importantly than that, he has not tried to make things happen – and by all accounts this was a game where Balotelli has actually put in a relatively decent work ethic (relative to his own usual lethargic efforts).  Take a look at the ‘take-ons’ – Balotelli attempted 3 in the game, one was successful whereas two were not.  Sturridge attempted 7 and was successful with 3 of them – again he tries to make things happen.  Of course, Sturridge showed a ruthless streak with his goal but this was not one of his best games.

If we compare Sturridge in terms of shots and shots on goal to Balotelli, in three games Sturridge had 13 shots, 5 of which were on target, 1 of which resulted in a goal.  In Balotelli’s last 3 Premier League games he has had 5 shots, 3 of which were on target and no goals.  Clearly something is amiss.

Apart from all this, Liverpool fans see Sturridge as a footballer that has emerged as a potential legend in front of their own eyes, he has come of age and is a positive reminder of last year’s golden days – something the other players could do with being reminded of at times.


Should I put Liverpool Players in my Fantasy Premier League Team?

Liverpool would not be a side that I would be rushing to back at the moment, however they are not a million miles away from the side that tore defences to shreds last year.  Until Sturridge has been back for at least 90 minutes worth of playing time I will be staying away from Liverpool in all areas of the pitch.  Sterling will continue to be a threat and I even think that Balotelli will come good in time, but he needs a strike partner.  He has the ability but his attitude will not improve whilst he has the doubters on his back.  Liverpool will improve, whether it will be enough to retain a top 4 position this year I very much doubt with the likes of Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea and then a perhaps 4th place surprise package or even a resurgent Manchester United.

Only time will tell.

*Stats provided by Opta courtesy of

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