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Aug 20, 2014

Pressure on to find Sturridge partner

The ESPN FC crew discusses how Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge are in line to fill the void left by Luis Suarez.

A quick glance at recent news and it's obvious how vexatious Liverpool's search for a new striker is becoming. Many words are being devoted to that quest and the idea of passing the transfer deadline without a sizeable investment in Luis Suarez's eventual replacement is becoming quite a concern.

In all of these discussions there has been one consolatory constant -- "At least there's Daniel Sturridge." His predatory instincts already won the Reds three points against Southampton on Sunday when even one point looked precarious at the time.

Word soon got around that Sturridge had achieved the second-highest goals tally of any Liverpool player during his first 50 appearances. Some, lest we forget, were via the substitutes' bench, making it an even more impressive feat.

Everyone will be praying his career surpasses that of the one player who beat him, a young man called George Allan. An amazing career, which included plenty of goals for Celtic too, he was part of the late 19th-century Scottish invasion that originally helped build this incredible club from nothing. Sadly, his life was cut short by tuberculosis at the early age of 24.

Closer to the present day, Sturridge's start has compared more than favourably to indisputable Anfield giants like Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish who feature in the club's all-time top 10

So far so good, but now comes the difficult "second album." He has already climbed to 77th in the club's all-time goal scorers list, and if he can keep up his current strike rate this season it won't take him long to pass Suarez and Fernando Torres into the top 20.

Will he, though? Supporters were buoyed by his goal against Southampton, as it featured all the hallmarks of the brilliant predator: a quiet game up until that moment, perfect judgement of where the last defender stood and an instant flick to get the ball across the line by any means necessary. Rush couldn't have done it any better.

But what awaits him for the rest of the season? If he were to survey the strikers above him in the club's amazing history he would see that the true greats have benefited from three things: longevity in a red shirt, a successful side -- those two things seemingly going hand in hand nowadays -- and a talented striking partner alongside them. No one more so than Rush, whose prolific first spell was achieved with Dalglish ably assisting him during an era when Liverpool made the league title their own personal property.

That partly explains the fevered discussion of Liverpool's next move in the transfer market: a short-term solution that could enable youngsters like Divock Origi or Raheem Sterling to become Sturridge's true partner for years to come.

The club has left it late though, so any fees or loan payments are bound to spiral out of control as interested clubs, players and agents hold them to ransom. Idle speculation on Loic Remy's failed fitness test is understandable, and the better (and more often) he plays well for QPR the more gossip there will be.

Supporters never really believed there would be a Suarez-sized signing, or that such a player even existed, but they did think someone was arriving soon. After so much money was spent on midfielders, defenders and a winger though, the remainder of the Suarez bounty dwindled.

Since Fabio Borini won't move and Barcelona now claim they only paid 65 million pounds for the errant Uruguayan, there's suddenly another 20 million pounds potentially in the pot. That's quite a chunk of cash, although who really believes the Catalan club nowadays?

Sturridge has admittedly managed to score without Suarez alongside him before, but it would be thankless to suggest that Suarez didn't make a major contribution to his excellent record via creating chances and being a tremendous distraction to opposition defenders.

Comparing Sturridge to past heroes is problematic, as no other Reds striker has played for this kind of coach before; 101 league goals is Liverpool's greatest goal haul of all time, and Brendan Rodgers must take credit.

True, Rush played in an incredibly successful side for his first prolific phase, and Roger Hunt's career was in the free-flowing 60s just before the 70s downturn into rather defensive football. Robbie Fowler also played in an exciting side; though perfectly capable of creating his own brilliant goals it was Roy Evans' introduction of wing-backs, the purchase of Stan Collymore and a roving role for Steve McManaman that certainly augmented Fowler's sublime skills.

Michael Owen was the main striker in arguably the club's most pragmatic of all eras yet still managed to score an incredible number of goals. Had he played in a Rodgers-type side there's no telling what the much-maligned former Red might have done during his peak years.

Both Torres and Suarez have kept up Liverpool's peculiar propensity for finding top-class strikers even during less their successful phases. Sadly neither stayed long enough to really carve his name with pride into the Anfield hall of fame.

Daniel Sturridge has a tough season ahead of him, but is more than capable of showcasing his talent.

That task now lies with Sturridge but he will ultimately need a good partner to assist him. Playing almost on his own against Southampton there was quite a lot of aimless running and fruitless harrying of defenders. For a player with his fitness record, his importance to the team and a season of extra European and international matches still to come, it did not bode well.

Rickie Lambert was on the pitch for only a few minutes before Sturridge got the winner. It wasn't anything Lambert did in particular that helped, just the mere presence of somebody else to share the workload and distract defenders perhaps.

So the arrival of a new quality forward is a necessity, not just to give Rodgers better options for the season but to protect and assist the one class striker Liverpool already have. Daniel Sturridge is an incredibly valuable asset, and anything the club can do within reason to keep him that way must be done.

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