There’s no doubt about it: the modern game, and the ways in which we discuss it, are extremely harsh on strikers.
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With so many sides the world over opting for a system that deploys a lone striker — often times completely isolated and facing two central defenders — goals are harder and harder to come by for these leading men. When the rest of the team does their part, though, shouldering the goal-scoring load, all is well in the world.
When the necessary service isn’t there, and those few-and-far-between chances aren’t converted, the hours and day following a crushing defeat are an absolute nightmare for strikers. Take, for example, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, who on Wednesday had one clear-cut look at goal in Liverpool’s EFL Cup semifinals defeat to Southampton, and fired it well over the crossbar. After the game, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher declared open season on Sturridge — quotes from the Telegraph:
“When he plays and he doesn’t score you’re basically down to 10 men because he doesn’t offer anything else. The only reason to have him in the team is for finishing ability. He doesn’t do anything else in the game now.”
“He’s had a really poor night and usually he finishes that. He’s a completely different player now to what he was when he first came under Brendan Rodgers. He used to give you penetration in behind and he had pace.
“I don’t know whether his pace has completely gone, or he’s worried about injuries — but his pace has gone. All he does is come to feet now.”
This has always been the knock on Sturridge — that he’s blindingly brilliant on his day, but a total passenger when he’s not getting goals. There’s also the “when he’s healthy” caveat, by which point you begin to wonder whether or not Sturridge can be counted on as the leading man for a title-contending team. (Remember: in 2013-14, he played second fiddle to Luis Suarez.)
In truth, Sturridge seems a poor fit for Jurgen Klopp‘s high-pressing, counter-attacking system which requires a high level of work rate from all 10 outfield players. Any decent coach — which Klopp has proven himself, clearly — will alter his system in order to get the very best out of a transcendent player, but with each passing performance, Sturridge seems less and less that level of player.