Daniel Sturridge injury 'cost us Champions League football', says Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, believes the injuries to Daniel Sturridge cost his club a top four place and a trophy last season.
Amid the contentious remarks regarding the ‘hysteria’ surrounding the Merseyside club this season, Rodgers made a salient point about the availability of the England striker. Liverpool have won less than half their Premier League games played without Sturridge since he joined the club two and a half years ago.
The performance against Aston Villa on Saturday – when Sturridge scored twice in a 3-2 win - underlined how much the 26-year-old has been missed and how different the last 16 months would have been had he been available.
Rodgers agreed it cost Liverpool a Champions League place and a cup. “Yes. Because he is in that elite band of player that we’ve seen here,” said Rodgers.
“We’ve seen here the brand of football we can create when we have that talent available. He played a massive part in that, so if he stays fit and others come into the reckoning we can piece together an exciting team again. Those players make the difference.”
For Rodgers, losing Sturridge so soon after the sale of Luis Suarez is the equivalent of Barcelona being deprived of Lionel Messi and Suarez for a year, or Real Madrid being expected to perform to the same levels without Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
“We haven’t scored three goals since he (Sturridge) last started a game,” said Rodgers.
“He gives you a big opportunity to win games and compete at the top end of the table. He is a fantastic talent and now the job is hopefully he can stay fit. It's not rocket science.”
The statistics underline the point.
How Sturridge makes the difference
Selection Win percentage
With Sturridge 61.4
Without Sturridge 46.5
Since Sturridge joined Liverpool in January 2013, his side has won 61 per cent of the fixtures in which he has played. In fact, in his 57 league appearances he has been on the losing side just eight times. Most of those occasions he was alongside Suarez.
Contrast this to Liverpool without the 26-year-old.
Liverpool have won just 20 of their 43 league games when Sturridge was injured, equating to a win rate of 46.5 per cent. The Suarez and Sturridge partnership yielded such a goalscoring rate, Liverpool struck 131 goals in the England man’s 57 appearances. In the 43 fixtures he has not played, they’ve managed just 66.
Sturridge's return offers Rodgers hope, but the Merseyside derby will offer a greater clue as to whether Liverpool have rediscovered their form. They must face Sion of Switzerland in the Europa League first.
Rodgers has a selection dilemma. Sturridge’s importance could see him rested again, but Danny Ings has been just as important in the last few fixtures.