By 90Min
October 05, 2018

As Liverpool laboured towards a draw against Napoli on Wednesday, they were desperately lacking in inspiration. They had failed to muster a single shot on goal all game - the first time in a Champions League match since 2006 - and only a combination of the woodwork and Alisson had kept Napoli at bay.

While Liverpool's usually prolific front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane floundered, their joint-top scorer this season sat on the bench. Not until the 89th minute did Jurgen Klopp finally call for Daniel Sturridge. He had under two minutes, plus added time, to try and change the momentum of an entire match.

In the event, it was the wrong decision anyway. With Liverpool rocked back on their heels for the majority of the second half, Klopp should have been content to settle for the draw. I thought these rash substitutions were a thing of the past, but Klopp showed that he still allows his attack-minded heart to rule his head too often.

Marc Atkins/GettyImages

64 seconds and zero touches after he had entered the fray, Sturridge could only watch as Lorenzo Insigne slotted home the deserved winner for Napoli. Insigne had taken 90 minutes but finally he had the goal as a reward for his hard work. Sturridge could only dream of being given that much time to make an impact.

Saying that Sturridge has scored four goals in eight appearances this season doesn't do justice to his strike rate. He has only been on the field for a total of 188 minutes, just over two full matches. In the Premier League, he is averaging a goal every 12 minutes.

Last weekend, he was summoned from the bench in the 86th minute as Liverpol desperately searched for the equaliser against Chelsea that would keep their unbeaten league run going. Sturridge produced it, lofting a sublime finish beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga with his very first act to earn Liverpool a precious point.

How distant moments like this must have seemed for Sturridge when he sat on the sidelines for West Brom in the second half of last season. Watching from afar as he slipped down the pecking order at Anfield, he must have feared that he would never score that 50th Premier League goal for the Reds.

As for Liverpool, the strength in depth that Sturridge gives them is a weapon which cannot be underestimated. When they were 1-0 down at Stamford Bridge in the corresponding fixture last season, Klopp looked to his bench and saw Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke, who had scored one goal between them all season. Sturridge is an instant upgrade.

Back in favour and back among the goals, Sturridge has described his Liverpool renaissance as being akin to getting back together with an ex-girlfriend (via ESPN). Reds fans are certainly reciprocating Sturridge's affection right now, but questions remain over whether this is really a happy reunion, or just a brief dalliance.

Sturridge is more like the mistress than the girlfriend right now. The Kop's beloved, Mohamed Salah, has been a bit distant lately, and Sturridge has been keeping the bed warm for a few minutes every week, but he wants something more. Can he ever hope to be anything more than Jurgen Klopp's bit on the side?

You can understand why Klopp is reluctant to break up the trio that scored 91 goals between them last season. Salah, Firmino and Mane already have nine league goals this season - the same number as at this stage last year - and it feels like they could click at any moment. Someone's going to get an absolute pasting when they do.

Having said that, Sturridge has every right to be knocking on Klopp's door and asking what more he can do to start. Even against Southampton, when Klopp rotated his team and gave Xherdan Shaqiri a rare start, Sturridge was left on the bench. His longest league appearance this season lasted 10 minutes.

Wednesday night seemed like a perfect opportunity to give Sturridge a start. With a crucial Premier League match against Manchester City to come on Sunday and a draw in Naples being enough to keep Liverpool top of the group, it would surely have made sense to give Salah or Firmino the rest that they seem in desperate need of.

Despite his strong form, Sturridge was not included in Gareth Southgate's squad for the forthcoming international break, with the England manager noting that he "has not had a lot of football" since his injury at the end of last season. The message is clear: he needs to be playing more, whether that be for Liverpool or elsewhere.

Sturridge speaks like a man in thrall to his renewed purpose at Anfield, talking with excitement about the prospect of challenging for major honours this season. But he will know that at the age of 29, his chances of playing for England again are quickly diminishing, and brief weekly cameos will not change that.

If Klopp does not start giving Sturridge more minutes on the pitch, this blossoming new relationship could soon end in another break-up, this time for good. Liverpool need to appreciate what they have before it's too late.

You May Like

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)