What does Daniel Sturridge bring to Liverpool?

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For the last five months, Liverpool has lived with the mistakes of the summer transfer window. Their lack of depth at striker has left manager Brendan Rodgers little recourse but to experiment with the likes of Jonjo Shelvey at center forward when Luis Suárez was unavailable to be run into the ground.

That the Shelvey proxy worked during a win West Ham doesn’t overshadow the fact that a precarious August gambit allowing Andy Carroll to leave (on loan to Upton Park) has handcuffed the squad. Relying on Clint Dempsey’s acquisition (and then, undervaluing the former-Fulham, now-Spurs attacker in the summer window) compounded the inanity.

Today Liverpool acted quickly to rectify the situation, completing the most predictable move of the winter window. The Reds have signed 23-year-old Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea for an undisclosed fee. Others have placed the price in the neighborhood of $19.5 million (£12 million).

Given Chelsea paid around $10.5 million of the former Manchester City attacker, it’s a nice bit of business for somebody still largely unproved in the Premier League.

Sturridge can play wide but prefers being deployed through the middle. Under ideal circumstances, he could play with in or place of Suárez, though describing him as a complement would be generous. The knock on the infrequent England international is his teamwork, his inability to create for others making a comparison to Theo Walcott applicable beyond the duo’s identical age, similar positional preferences (and uses), and goal scoring output.

While Sturridge had a strong first half of 2011-12 under André Villas-Boas, he was one of the first players to lose his spot under Roberto Di Matteo. Rafa Benítez has failed to restore him to the starting XI, though Chelsea’s newfound depth (having acquired Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Victor Moses) and Sturridge’s impending departure were likely bigger factors than the player’s skill set.

Like Walcott, there are still questions whether he will be a reliable goal scorer, though (also like Walcott) a change may be necessary to bring out that potential. For the Arsenal man, a long-pined for move to the middle seems to have sparked his output. For Sturridge, relocating west may do the trick.

The price is unconfirmed, but if it is £12 million, Liverpool’s paying a Three Lions tariff. Sturridge would only be able to command two-thirds of that were he born outside England (or, perhaps, Great Britain). Another player who’d spent the better part of six seasons deflating expectations would be seen as a project, not an eight-figure buy. Given Sturridge was lured to Chelsea on reasonably high wages in the first place, this deal may still prove costly after the player’s settled on Mersey.

If the price is lower, the Sturridge signing becomes a reasonable move. He’s a talented player that fits a need. Moving into Brendan Rodgers’ system, Sturridge may be forced to develop the parts of his game that have, to this point, kept him from making the impact expected when he left Eastlands.

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina squad

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

AP Photo / Ricardo Mazalan
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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”

Croatia smashes disheveled Argentina

AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
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Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic have Croatia in the knockout rounds and Argentina on the verge of World Cup disaster.

Croatia scored a trio of second half goals, one aided by a Willy Caballero howler, in a 3-0 win in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.

Argentina will enter its final match against Nigeria on the outskirts of the knockout rounds regardless of how Nigeria-Iceland ends on Friday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Ivan Perisic forced a big save out of Wily Caballero for an early Croatia corner kick that came to nothing.

Messi had a chance stopped inside of 10 minutes, then started a play that Dejan Lovren blocked for a corner in the 13th.

Enzo Perez missed an open goal off a poor Croatia giveaway in the 30th minute.

There were a pair of fouls not out of place on a red card lowlight reel, one for each team, but neither resulting in a sending off.

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Croatia took the lead through Caballero’s gaffe and Rebic’s smash in the 54th.

Argentina nearly answered moments later. After a mazy Messi dribble, Argentina regained possession in the 64th minute, spearheaded by a Gonzalo Higuain run that led to a corner.

Croatia came close to making it 2-0, as Mario Mandzukic couldn’t turn a flick on frame and instead saw it glide into the outside of the goal.

Then Modric put the match to bed as the clock hit 80, an absolute beauty. Another huge defensive mistake allowed Mateo Kovacic to cue up Rakitic for the third.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

WATCH: Caballero blunder punished as Rebic rip puts Argentina on ropes

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
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Willy Caballero has made one of the bigger blunders in recent World Cup history.

His Argentina side needs at least a point from Thursday’s match-up with Croatia, and the match remained scoreless into halftime.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But 10 minutes after the break, Caballero flubbed a clearance in a big way.

The Argentina goalkeeper then could only watch as Ante Rebic kept his composure to blast a side volley into the goal.

It was a fine finish, to be sure, but not possible without such a terrible gaffe.