Daniel Sturridge was very productive in his seven seasons at Anfield. He registered 160 appearances for the club across all leagues and netted a total of 67 goals – 50 of which came in Premier League action. Sturridge was released by the club in early June, however, which means that big changes are ahead as the 2019/20 campaign starts up. Those changes will need to be efficient and effective, however. The Merseysiders are invested in winning this season’s Premier League title, and owner John Henry appears to be thoroughly cognisant of how badly Liverpool fans want it.
“I know we’re going to be focused on winning the Premier League next year,” said Henry, who already seems to have his eye on some in-house players (namely, Divock Origi) to step up in attacking positions. That would bode well for Liverpool, which is being pegged by most of the online football oddsmakers either as the league favourite or as likely runners-up just behind Manchester City, even without Sturridge. Indeed, expectations remain sky high coming off the 2019 Champions League title. But even so, losing a striker of Sturridge’s calibre is a big blow to Liverpool.
The good news is that the club does indeed have options to replace Sturridge’s production.
For starters, there’s the obvious: Liverpool still has Mohamed Salah, who alongside teammate Sadio Mané and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shared the Premier League lead in goals last season (with 22). Salah can actually be more prolific, as he proved two seasons ago when he recorded a league-high 32 goals in 36 appearances. Mané, meanwhile, may still be improving, and a big 2019/20 season is a real possibility. The aforementioned Origi, on the other hand, showed in the Champions League that he can be a reliable weapon for Liverpool, recording a brace in the second leg of the semifinal against Barcelona and finding the net in the final versus Tottenham as well. Another player who can contribute even more next season is Roberto Firmino, who has registered 48 goals in 137 Premier League appearances for Liverpool.
Thinking of Sturridge in his prime, merely hoping for existing prolific scorers to score more probably wouldn’t be enough. Based on the departed forward’s production in just the last few seasons though, there’s every chance the foursome of Salah, Mané, Origi, and Firmino alone can more than offset the loss. In fact, they give Liverpool plenty of firepower for next season if all goes well. That does mean relying on a lot of positives, however: Salah’s sustained excellence, continued improvement for Mané and Origi, and most notably, good health for all of the above. And for this reason, even though Sturridge’s most recent production wasn’t much to speak of, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Jürgen Klopp turn to the transfer market, if only for the sake of depth among his scoring options.
One player Liverpool can pursue is former Anfield favourite Philippe Coutinho.
Yes, the Brazilian had a much-publicised falling-out with Liverpool that led to his departure. But he’s a perfect fit for Klopp’s attacking style, and his chemistry with Firmino and Mané is tried and tested. Pre-Salah, in fact, it was the redoubtable trio of Coutinho, Firmino, and Mané that anchored Liverpool’s attack. Throw in that Coutinho himself might just welcome a reunion (his stay in Barcelona has been a struggle to say the least), and he could actually be a perfect option. It seems like a long shot simply because of his past with the club, but it’s something the club would do well to explore.
Two other names being linked to Liverpool are Paulo Dybala and Abdulkadir Omur (the latter being known as “Turkish Messi”). Both could more than replace Sturridge’s production, though the former is the more logical choice. With Juventus reportedly lowering its asking price for Dybala from £105 million to £70 million, Liverpool might just be able to bring in the Argentine striker, and establish one of the most devastating attacks – at least on paper – the EPL will have seen in years.
That said, Liverpool has had a relatively quiet summer. The club has so far signed only Sepp van den Berg from PEC Zwolle out of the Eredivisie. Klopp has chalked up this inactivity to prudence and has suggested that Liverpool doesn’t need to tap into its vast wealth to improve. And again, it’s not as if Sturridge’s departure in 2019 is what it might have been five years ago. Liverpool is coming off of a Champions League title and returning the bulk of its squad, and could thus stand pat and compete at the top of the Premier League. On the other hand though, adding one more impact offensive talent to the likes of Salah, Mané, Origi, and Firmino might be the difference between seizing that domestic title or not.