25 Aug 2016

Trouble Ahead? 'Amazing' £30m star reveals Liverpool frustration; Klopp hits back with nonsensical explanation

When fit, Daniel Sturridge is inarguably Liverpool's best goalscorer, and his superb goal record for the club is proof-positive that centre-forward is his best position. Alas, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is obsessed with 'versatility' and 'flexible football', and his frustrating penchant for misusing the club's players has now extended to Sturridge, and the striker is not happy about it.

In an interview this week, Sturridge outlined his frustration with being played out of position:

“It's more difficult for me to play wide. I’m a centre-forward. Everyone knows my best position. Everyone knows where I enjoy playing the most".

Sturridge also outlined why he's more effective as a central striker:

"I play on instinct. I'm on autopilot there. You do things because you are used to doing it. Out wide, you have to worry about different things. The way you move, the way you play – it's all different. You can’t play the same as you do as a centre-forward.”

Anyone who's ever played football knows that Sturridge is absolutely right, but what does Klopp think? When asked today about Sturridge's comments, Klopp claimed that:

- It 'makes no sense' for Sturridge to 'play in the centre and stay there'; he has to 'change positions'.

- When Sturridge has completed his 'defensive' duties out wide, he needs to get into the box to score goals.

- He 'doesn't want to play Sturridge as a wide player', but confirmed he can 'start there', and then, in 'decisive moments', he can 'be in the box'. According to Klopp, this is 'flexible football'.

- Liverpool 'didn't need offensive wingers against Burnley and Burton', and that the full-backs should've 'filled' those roles.

In my view, Klopp's reasoning here is questionable:

* There's a world of difference between playing out wide, and operating as a central striker, and the main difference is defensive workload. A winger's job is one of the most exhausting in the team, and Sturridge is simply not built for it.

* If Liverpool didn't need 'offensive wingers' against Burnley, then why play Sturridge out wide? Also, if Klopp 'doesn't want to play Sturridge as a wide player' then...don't play him out wide! It's that simple, or am I missing something here?

* Klopp's point about 'starting positions' is disingenuous as it ignores the reality of the role. Klopp appears to suggest that it's a nominal starting position, and that Sturridge can just drift into the box, but it's not that simple. If Sturridge's starting position is out wide, it means he will, by default, always have to revert to that position to retain team.

* It also means Sturridge will have a specific set of winger-centric defensive duties to consider, which cannot just be abandoned. Klopp even states that Sturridge should get in the box once he's 'completed' his defensive duties, which means that he'll always have to return to the 'starting position'.

* Sturridge's starting position should be central, and from there, he can drift out wide if/when it's beneficial. As a comparison, consider Thierry Henry; his starting position was almost always central; he may have drifted out wide, but he didn't have the massive defensive workload that comes with having a starting position out wide.

* Sturridge shouldn't be spending most of his time defending, tracking back, and/or dropping deep to collect the ball (as he did against Burnley); he should be in a central position, in and around the box, with a remit to score and create goals (whilst defending from the front). That's his game, and as Sturridge says, 'everyone knows' this (except Klopp).

* Additionally, Being out wide = more running, pressing, and defending, which obviously increases the possibility of injury. Sturridge also added:

"I have to do a job for the team. That's not saying I am happy to do it. That's saying I have got to do a job for the team".

If there were no other wide options available, then Klopp' decision would be understandable, but with Origi, Lallana, Coutinho, and Firmino in the squad (all of whom are better suited to playing out wide), there's no logical reason to force Sturridge to 'do a job for the team' out wide.

Klopp's obsession with 'flexible football', and player 'versatility' is increasingly maddening. Why is it so difficult to play aces in their places? Sturridge is a central striker, so if he's fit, and in the team, then he should play in that position. The proof is in the pudding: 64 goals/assists in 80 games as a central striker tells its own story.

As for Sturridge speaking publicly about this - who cares? He's not being disrespectful, and focusing on that is just another way for raging Klopp apologists to derail discussion and protect their deity from criticism.

Bottom line: Playing Sturridge out wide is setting him up to fail. If Klopp wanted a different style of striker, he should've signed one during the transfer window. Klopp's job is to utilise the playing assets for the benefit of the club, and that means playing the club's best goalscorer in his natural position.

After this transgression, Klopp will almost certainly drop Sturridge for Saturday's trip to Spurs. Just watch.

^ Sturridge: £30m-rated. Described as 'amazing' by Lucas Leiva.


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