LIVERPOOL — If Luis Suarez was Liverpool's star of the first half of the season, then Daniel Sturridge is undoubtedly taking on that role for the stretch run. He's the first man since Ruud van Nistelrooy to score in eight consecutive Premier League appearances, and his goals could yet fire the Reds to the title.
When Sturridge returned from injury in January there were concerns that Brendan Rodgers would find it hard to accommodate the former Chelsea star and that the England international would take time to rekindle his partnership with Luis Suarez. That wasn't the case, as nine goals in seven matches stand testament to.
Criticizing Sturridge after the player missed a number of chances against Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend, former England striker Ian Wright suggested that he looks to shoot too early rather than round the goalkeeper when in one-on-one situations.
It was somewhat apt, then, when the former Chelsea man rounded Michel Vorm to open the scoring inside three minutes Sunday. A close-range header later in the half showed he is more than a collector of great goals; he is capable of the simplistic as well as the spectacular.
Strikers of course can go on hot streaks, but with 27 goals in as many games it is time Sturridge is recognized as an exceptional player in his own right, not just Suarez's partner in crime.
Rodgers, given the work he has done with the 24-year old since his arrival in Merseyside just more than 12 months ago, must also receive praise for his impressive form.
High-profile managers have tried and failed to get Sturridge firing, with the decision to push him out to the right while at Chelsea cited as the main reason he never did find the net on a consistent basis.
But Rodgers has shown that the former Manchester City prospect can perform anywhere along the front line as long as he is backed by his manager. Utilized on the right against the Swans, he was allowed the freedom to cut inside and it is that creative license that has seen him flourish at Anfield.
It should also be seen as no coincidence that on the day England drew a relatively simple European Championship qualifying group, a man who can lead the international side’s attack for years to come continued to add to his burgeoning reputation of a goalscorer of some repute.
Rodgers said after the game that Sturridge “looks like scoring in every single game,” and he most certainly cannot be argued with on that. There are few hotter strikers in world soccer at present.
For all the talk of free-scoring Manchester City, Liverpool has now found the net more times than Manuel Pellegrini’s side in the Premier League. Though Suarez can take plenty of the plaudits, it is Sturridge’s contributions that could see the Reds overpower the Blues come the end of the campaign.