|Luiz Suarez and Daniel Sturridge|
Liverpool’s strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge really has endless potential, and it’s easy to see why on surface level, but there are even more reasons to be optimistic about the ‘SAS’ duo, if you’re a Reds supporter, when you dig a little deeper.
More than just being two high-calibre forwards hindered occasionally by either inconsistency (Sturridge) or temperament (Suarez), they provide welcome relief for one another.
While Suarez is far from Liverpool’s ‘one-man team’, it was starting to look like some opposing teams were strategizing to ‘keep him double-marked and then we’ll be fine’. Sturridge, though, eases the burden on Suarez to deliver the goods and poses a separate threat, stopping teams from just double-marking the Uruguayan.
Sturridge, meanwhile, finds himself joined up top by someone who is not only talented enough to provide him with assists but who is happy to let Daniel be the main man front and centre while Luis drifts right, left and backwards to collect the ball sooner, as well as make runs which leave Sturridge wide open for the midfield to supply to.
And yet, there’s even more to their recent form and momentum than that. And for me, it stems from Suarez’s suspension for biting which kept him out of the start of the current campaign.
I really think Suarez is a better player since coming back, and he was great before the Ivanovic incident of course. It’s too early to say whether he’s completely a changed man, but for now he is playing with a degree of maturity and class which shows how world class he can be when he isn’t his own worst enem y.
Sturridge, meanwhile, came to Liverpool after spells at two big-money clubs in Man City and Chelsea, where many were left to question whether he was good enough for that particularly high level.
The 2012/13 season began with spots at the top of the table seemingly up for grabs with all of the managerial departures and various big signings. Without Suarez there to support Sturridge for those first few games, he knew he had to step up – and he did.
A confident Sturridge and a mature Suarez are a handful for any defence, just ask West Brom. But can they make it last?
For me, it comes down to that moment a bit deeper into the season when teams start to suss out ways to handle the combination of the two, defensively.
Not every game will be a straightforward case of putting the ball into the net for Suarez and Sturridge, of course. And I don’t even just mean the big clashes over European places – as lower teams come really close to the threat of relegation, they’ll be more resolute and determined at the back.
If the two strikers can keep their current mindset even in the face of the occasional frustrating game, great. And the key factor to ensuring this for and Liverpool is whether the midfield can step up and take some responsibility whenever ‘SAS’ find themselves smothered by defenders.
Brendan Rodgers’ preference for a quick-moving, short-passing midfield could be just the tonic at the business end of the season to push a little further forward and try to draw out those more rugged defences who by then will know exactly what their side need for whatever their final season objective is.
Though there were some early objections when Rodgers tried to implement this style in his early months in charge, things are starting to take shape. And after the ill-fated Suarez-Andy Carroll duo attempt, plus looking at the team styles at Uruguay and Ajax where Luis has also shone, the ball-to-feet, play-on-the-ground approach plays to his strengths.
Until then, I expect more great things in the short term from Suarez and Sturridge, and there’s a fair chance that the experience will see the brilliant Suarez help bring Sturridge up to that very top level with him.
And of course, if their partnership can somehow land Liverpool a top four finish amidst some tremendous competition for those Champions League spots this season, it may just put off Suarez’s departure for pastures new a little longer.
As a closing note, I’d like to point out that without any sort of stats book handy on Saturday, I was as surprised as everyone else that it was Suarez’s first hat-trick at Anfield, especially as he averages one every 20 games.
Probably won’t be his last, though, even if he does end up leaving at the end of the season.