Prolific Sturridge in esteemed company

Posted by David Usher

Premier LeagueGettyImagesLuis Suarez has been crucial to Daniel Sturridge's prolific early goalscoring record.

Roger Hunt, Ian St. John, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, John Aldridge, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez -- all great strikers who have made their own mark on the history of Liverpool Football Club, and all who took more games to reach 20 goals for the club than Daniel Sturridge.

It may not be the most monumental of achievements, but it is an impressive feat given the competition and that Sturridge reached the landmark with plenty to spare over nearest rival Torres, who took just 31 games to record his 20th strike. Sturridge has done it in a mere 26 appearances (not all of them starts), and unlike some of his predecessors he doesn't have the benefit of playing in the best side in the country.

To put Sturridge's numbers into some kind of perspective, Rush, Hunt and Aldridge took 34 games to hit 20 goals, Fowler 36, Owen 38, St John 39, Dalglish 45 (impressive in itself given the withdrawn forward role he played) and Suarez 49. It's way too soon to be putting Sturridge into such exalted company of course, but in terms of a start to his Anfield career he could hardly have wished for a better one.

Despite being nowhere near his best at the weekend in the disappointing draw at St James' Park, he still found the net and also played a wonderful pass that led to Suarez winning a penalty and Newcastle being reduced to ten men. Even on his rare off days he still makes things happen.

History tells us that Sturridge probably won't be able to keep up this remarkable strike rate -- Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are just about the only two I can think of who have been able to sustain such a remarkable goals to games ratio over a significant period of time -- but if Sturridge can even come close to keeping up this kind of goalscoring form then Torres' club record of 50 goals from his first 84 games is well within reach. At his current pace Sturridge would get there in 65, which seems extremely unlikely but not impossible.

Interestingly, Sturridge's current partner in crime is also riding high on the 'quickest to 50' list, Suarez having gotten there in just 91 games. That makes this pairing somewhat unique in the sense that most successful partnerships are formed by players with contrasting styles; be it a poacher playing off a big target man, or a flying machine playing ahead of a creative genius with an eye for a defence splitting pass. Striking duos come in various shapes and sizes but there is usually a clear 'number 9'.

That isn't the case with Suarez and Sturridge, in fact Brendan Rodgers recently described them both as 'nine and a halves'. Not quite 9's but not 10's either. Both score and both create, they both like to drop deep, they both drift out wide, they both pose all manner of problems for a defence to deal with, even when neither are on top form such as at the weekend. It would appear that the only thing that could prevent this becoming a record breaking partnership is the uncertainty surrounding the Uruguayan's future and whilst that doubt remains there is little point speculating as to how prolific they can be.

Sturridge, however, has no such uncertainty. He's thriving at Anfield having finally been given the opportunity to play week in week out in a role that suits his undoubted talent, and he now has a chance to ensure he is talked about by future generations in the same breath as some of the greats that have gone before him, and not just because he beat them all to 20 goals.

The former Manchester City and Chelsea man has the natural talent to match what any of the great strikers of the past achieved, at least in terms of goal tally, not even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans would expect him to compete with the medal hauls of an Ian Rush for example.

The greats of the past are all superior to Sturridge in various aspects of their play; Rush was a more clinical finisher and defended from the front better than anyone that has ever played the game. Aldridge was far better in the air and was more of a six yard box poacher than Sturridge will ever be. Owen was quicker and more ruthless in front of goal, Fowler was just a goalscoring genius and most would probably say that Torres in his pomp was more explosive and direct than Sturridge, although I would perhaps dispute that. But then I'm not the most impartial when it comes to talking about Torres, he's not exactly my favourite ex-Red, to put it mildly.

Yet I'd suggest that none of the aforementioned greats have the all round game that Sturridge has shown since he moved to Merseyside last January. As well as scoring at a quicker rate than all of them, he's shown that he can do a bit of everything, even if he has not always shown it week in and week out. He's shown consistency in his goalscoring but he's been a little erratic with the rest of his game at times, looking completely unplayable some weeks and then considerably below par the next. Regardless of performance, he's generally managed to find the net, and done so at record breaking pace. It's also worth mentioning that he has not been fully fit for much of his time at Anfield and those niggling fitness concerns make his goalscoring exploits even more remarkable.

But as impressive as Sturridge has been so far, it is 'only' 26 games and effectively all he has achieved to this point is to get off to a very good start, nothing more. Being the quickest to 20 goals is nice but hopefully it is just the prelude to bigger things. Based on what he's shown so far, Sturridge has the opportunity to eventually put himself in the same bracket as many of the greats that have gone before him, but to get there he'll need to continue to do it over a sustained period of time, as they all did. Only when he's done it for several years can he be talked about in the same breath as a Rush, Hunt or Fowler, but he's certainly got a chance to do it, especially as despite his fine start there's still the potential for him to get even better.

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