Daniel Sturridge was not the right fit for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool but can he reignite his career at West Brom? Nick Wright takes a look at the challenge facing the striker as he prepares to line up against former club Chelsea on Monday Night Football.
Five years separate the two and they leave him at opposite ends of the Premier League table, but there are parallels between Daniel Sturridge’s departure from Liverpool and his arrival there in the first place. The striker moved to Anfield having struggled with injuries and lost his place in the team at Chelsea. Half a decade on, similar circumstances have led him to West Brom.
Sturridge’s career is at a crossroads once again and the question now is whether he can grasp his new opportunity in the same way he did his last. The striker scored seven minutes into his Liverpool debut in January 2013 and finished that season with 11 goals in 16 appearances. It paved the way for a second campaign in which his performances were even better.
His early showings in a West Brom shirt have not been quite so explosive. Sturridge was handed his debut at Manchester City and made his first start at home to Southampton last weekend, but it is fair to say he is still waiting for lift-off. Alan Pardew has pledged to “manage him carefully” but West Brom can ill-afford a long period of adjustment.
On the face of it, Sturridge’s recent record does not inspire much confidence. With injuries halting his progress at regular intervals, the 28-year-old started just 20 Premier League games of a possible 94 under Jurgen Klopp. Over the last three seasons at Liverpool, his overall goal tally stands at just 23 – fewer than he scored in the 2013/14 campaign alone.
Sturridge never seemed to fit with Klopp’s high-pressing, high-intensity mantra. In hindsight, the writing was on the wall from the moment the German told him he needed to learn “what is serious pain” when he pulled out of a Europa League game against Bordeaux in November 2015.
Klopp felt Sturridge could have done more to make himself available, but the injuries do appear to have taken a toll. He has not started four consecutive games since April 2014. Four years on and it is hardly surprising that his pace and acceleration are not quite at the level they were.
“Whenever we talk about Sturridge we keep going back to that season when Liverpool nearly won the league, but I don’t think that player is there now,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher after a 1-1 draw with Newcastle in October.
“If everything is right with Sturridge, he is one of the first names on the team-sheet but looking at him today, he was miles away,” added Graeme Souness.
Pardew is mindful of the need to rebuild Sturridge’s fitness but it is a measure of his enduring finishing ability that, despite the injuries and inconsistencies which cost him his place in the Liverpool team, his strike rate remains one of the very best in the Premier League.