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Saturday 27 May 2017

Brendan Rodgers questions Daniel Sturridge's mental strength

Liverpool boss has serious problems with his team's lack of goals

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, right, and Daniel Sturridge
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, right, and Daniel Sturridge

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has refused to deny if Daniel Sturridge's current injury problems were all in his head.

The Kop striker has endured a nightmare season through injuries that have seen him travel to the United States for treatment and only last month he was forced to come and stress that he was "mentally strong".

But asked whether part of Sturridge's problems were mental today, Rodgers said: "I'm not sure. Daniel is like every other player - he wants to play and be available.

"It is just unfortunate for him. If you track his career he's had little issues along the way.

"We have to do everything we can to get him on the training field and into the game, hence the reason for looking into the issue."

Last month Sturridge spoke to Press Association Sport about his fitness issues this season and he stressed psychologically he was fine.

"Every season you learn something new and this season I have learned you have to be mentally strong, and I am mentally strong so I've learned a new lesson," he said.

"I know what I need to do, know where I have to go and I know where I want to be as well, so for me it is important to just continue and look forward to the future."

Mario Balotelli has been a disaster
Mario Balotelli has been a disaster

While he was in America for his last spell Sturridge had brief exchanges with Rodgers but the striker insists he did not feel he required any additional emotional support as he underwent rehabilitation.

"He (Rodgers) text messaged me and we would speak now and again but I was just over there getting myself ready," added Sturridge.

"I am mentally strong - I don't really need to have conversations with anyone."

Rodgers admits dwindling numbers of chances created and goals scored is a concern as the club stumble towards the end of the season.

A return of four from the last five league matches, half of which were scored against a Newcastle side in free fall, has brought a meagre tally of four points to derail their Champions League hopes.

Their other two goals came in defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal, but being shut out by West Brom and Hull in the last week has only highlighted a problem which has not been far from the surface all season because of injuries to Daniel Sturridge, whom Rodgers confirmed will now see an orthopaedic surgeon in the United States in an attempt to solve "underlying issues".

"It is a concern (creating chances) because that is the game," said Rodgers.

"You always worry about working and performing well, and key to creating chances is being able to score.

"It is about efficiency and if you are not going to create as many opportunities then you have to be clinical.

"The game the other night (a 1-0 defeat at Hull), we had 20 attempts on goal and nine shots on target.

"For an away team playing against a low defensive block, to have nine shots on target it is quite a high number and you'd at least expect to score a goal.

"We didn't have that and how we create the chances, how we arrive into those areas and the scoring of those opportunities (is something) we need to analyse."

Much of the criticism for the lack of goals has fallen at the feet of Mario Balotelli, who will miss Saturday's visit of struggling QPR with a foot injury sustained at Hull.

Back in August, after performing a U-turn on the decision to sign the Italy international, Rodgers admitted he took a calculated gamble.

That has not paid off, with Balotelli scoring just four goals all season, and with Liverpool dropping seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United attention has inevitably turned to Liverpool's transfer committee.

Made up of Rodgers, head of recruitment Dave Fallows, chief scout Barry Hunter, head of performance and analysis Michael Edwards, Mike Gordon, a Liverpool director who also sits on the board of owners Fenway Sports Group, and chief executive Ian Ayre, there has been criticism of the method and application of conducting transfers.

Rodgers has regularly had to defend the set-up and did so again when challenged.

"When I came to Liverpool I knew 100 per cent how the club worked," he said.

"But on top of that we have a good team of people here and we all work well together - we understand the model here and how it functions.

"We have to look at it and work out in the summer what is going to improve our squad again to put up a better challenge and more consistent challenge for next season.

"Naturally, come the end of the season, you look to improve the squad and what I've said is we've been short on goals, but that's not just the strikers it's a collective responsibility.

"These are areas where we have analysed and want to improve going forward."

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