Liverpool striker’s fitness is vital to improving Reds’ home form
When Liverpool’s 2015/16 Premier League fixtures were announced, the gauntlet of away games the Reds were thrown down looked acutely ominous, but things have not panned out the way many were predicting.
In some degree a clueless performance leading to a 3-1 loss at arch rivals Manchester United, contributed to the demise of Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool’s manager.
However, that remains the only defeat the Reds have suffered on their travels in seven fixtures, starting with a 1-0 triumph at Stoke (the scene of a 6-1 mauling to end 2013/14) and taking in trips to all of last season’s top five before December.
Champions Chelsea and champions elect Manchester City have subsequently been humbled by Jurgen Klopp’s outfit, but as any interested onlooker can point out, this away joy is not shared at Anfield.
In the same number of home matches Liverpool have tasted defeat twice, been held twice, while scraping past two of the bottom three and free-falling Swansea all by a single goal in flat displays.
Klopp’s counter-pressing style works wonders away from home when hounding the team in possession high up the pitch, robbing them and penetrating with their opponents backpedalling.
However, when the onus is on Liverpool to create attacks from scratch at Anfield, too often the defensive mindset of visiting teams leaves few holes to exploit and the forays become predictable.
This is where the fitness of a certain striker is paramount to arresting this pattern and potentially unlocking the door to the top four at 11/10 with Ladbrokes.
Although Daniel Sturridge has managed just 20 minutes in a Liverpool shirt since Klopp took the reins, his pace is the key component to changing the way the Reds play at home.
Thus far under Klopp, Christian Benteke has been deployed as the focal point of the Reds forward line at home, and although the burly Belgian has proven he can grab goals, his lack of genuine pace is a problem.
Benteke likes to drop deep and link up play, leaving opposing centre-backs to split duties, with one inevitably marshalling the former Aston Villa man, and the other free to organise behind.
While Benteke can physically bully defenders, Sturridge’s threat is in behind and that is exactly what the Reds need to stretch teams at Anfield.
If he is playing then the mindset of opponents can be altered and he can even be used in tandem with Benteke to provide aerial flick-ons.
Liverpool need a plan B to arrest this luke-warm home form and a fit and firing Sturridge is key to implementing it.
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