One half of Liverpool’s devastating ‘SAS’ partnership will be missing for the rest of the year as Daniel Sturridge recovers from a foot injury.
The effect of his absence has already been felt as Brendan Rodgers’ men slumped to a 3-1 reverse at Hull over the weekend and his manager aptly admitted that being robbed of the Englishman’s services is going to be a heavy blow that his team must cope with. From what we saw against the Tigers however, it s going to take more than a rallying call for it
to happen. Here are some ways Rodgers can soften Sturridge’s absence.
1. Play Coutinho in the hole
The Brazilian has been an instant hit since his arrival in January and had a fantastic first five months at the club. His arrival coincided with the recruitment of Sturridge and the suspension of Suarez after his infamous Dracula incident on one Branislav Ivanovic. To say the Englishman and the Brazilian hit it off would be a major understatement.
Coutinho flourished in the hole right behind Sturridge and together they forged a fantastic partnership. Suarez’s absence was not really felt that much as this dynamic duo took over Liverpool’s attacking baton and run with it. Inter Milan’s decision to dispense with Coutinho’s services looked all the more ludicrous considering their struggles after his departure. Certainly Moratti regrets it even now.
Rodgers needs to capitalise on Sturridge’s absence this time round and play Coutinho in behind Suarez. His brief cameo against Hull provided a highlight of what could happen if he plays in between the midfield and attack but sadly it was a case of too little too late from Rodgers. The Uruguayan thrives when he plays up top, by himself or with another striker and Coutinho playing behind him, it could be a recipe for destruction. The Brazilian has quick feet, loves to run at defenders and has an eye for a pass, exactly what Suarez longs for.
2. Pair Suarez with Aspas
The summer acquisition has had a rather underwhelming start to life in Merseyside and injuries have hampered his settling in period even further. The man from Celta Vigo is not a ready made substitute for Sturridge but this must surely be the time to grant him some playing time.
He is quick and does not shy away from getting stuck in but needs a run of games to find
form and confidence. Aspas could operate as the decoy for Suarez, dragging defenders towards him and freeing up space in behind for the Uruguayan to operate.
3. Demand more from Moses, Luis Alberto and Sterling
Another summer signing, Luis Alberto may be worth a try, especially given the travails of Sterling and Moses. The wide-man may end up being another Alberto Riera but needs game time to show just why Rodgers brought him in. He has been a complete unknown four months after joining the Reds and this could be the time to give him a run of matches.
Moses and Sterling though are no greenhorns. They have been around long enough now and more should be required and produced by the pair. The jury is still out on the Nigerian after his inconsistent displays so far at Liverpool and people are beginning to question whether he is truly good enough for a permanent place in the side. Sterling shows promise but that potential is largely still raw, despite being in the first team for a considerable period of time now. Rodgers needs to coerce the best out of these two players for their individual and the club’s good. The time is now.
4. Free Gerrard
The swashbuckling, rampaging, energetic displays are gone as age catches up with Liverpool’s talisman but the 32-year-old remains as creative as ever in the his withdrawn role at the club. Gerrard has played more key passes than any other Liverpool player this season and has three goal to his name coupled with a bunch of assists.
He may not be able to burst through the middle any more now and track back but Rodgers should at least give him a little bit more freedom to play further afield and support Suarez.
Henderson and Lucas can stay back and cover whenever their captain bombs forward and as his goal against Poland showed; he has lost none of his killer instinct in front of goal.
Brendan, the ball is in your court.
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