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 By David Usher

Liverpool's quiet window puts the burden squarely on Daniel Sturridge

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has praised striker Daniel Sturridge after making his long-awaited return from injury over the weekened.

It was a fairly uneventful deadline day for most Premier League clubs and it was especially dull at Anfield, where Liverpool's transfer activity extended only to sending a few youngsters out on loan and failing to persuade Rickie Lambert to join Aston Villa. Nobody arrived and nobody of any significance departed, either. It was all very predictable and while fans may have been disappointed, few will have been surprised.

Brendan Rodgers has been saying for weeks that it would be a quiet window for the Reds, although that didn't stop the rumour mill from churning on in somewhat ludicrous fashion. Surely nobody was buying into the Karim Benzema/Ezekiel Lavezzi rumours, though? Anyone who was taken in by such fanciful links to superstar players on superstar wages at superstar clubs will have been distinctly underwhelmed when Liverpool did eventually try to make a move for a striker, only to be rebuffed by ... erm ... Burnley.

Rodgers' attempt to secure a deal for Danny Ings did seem to come somewhat out of the blue, but in fairness his interest in the 22-year-old didn't just materialise overnight. Ings was heavily scouted by Liverpool last season when he was lighting up the Championship before suffering a serious knee injury that also caused him to miss the start of this campaign. He's performed well since his return to fitness, and obviously Rodgers felt he could offer more than Lambert, Mario Balotelli or Fabio Borini. It's clear that none of that trio fit well into Liverpool's current setup, although Borini can at least fulfil some of the requirements for the lone striker's role in the new 3-4-2-1 formation. His lack of games tells its own story, however.

Lambert rejecting a last-day move to Aston Villa will have shocked absolutely nobody, except perhaps his namesake Paul, the Villa boss. Rickie's "dream move" may not have worked out as well as he'd have hoped (so far), but he's very rarely been left out of the matchday squad and Liverpool still have a lot to play for this season, so Lambert may yet have a part to play over the coming months. Besides, who in their right mind is going to give up a place at their boyhood club to sign for Aston Villa given the state they are currently in? Lambert has played most of his career outside of the top flight and by signing for Villa he would be running the risk of returning there in a few months. Of course he turned it down; he'd have been crazy not to.

Everything depends on the fitness of Sturridge, and whether he has put his injury nightmare behind him once and for all.

Rodgers apparently did not want to lose Lambert, but that five million pound offer will have been extremely attractive to the money men at Liverpool. Turning a healthy profit on a player in his 30s who has failed to make much of an impact will have been seen as something of a no-brainer over in Boston at Fenway Sports Group HQ. That's not Lambert's concern, however, and you can't blame the guy for choosing to stay put, especially having waited his entire career to get back to Liverpool. He may yet get his one glorious moment.

It's easy to see why Liverpool made a move for Ings, though. He's young, soon to be out of contract, and he's a mobile, hard working goal scorer whose style of play appears well-suited to Liverpool's current setup. Whether he's of the required quality is certainly open to debate, but it would have been an extremely low-risk signing from a financial point of view at least.

What is less easy to understand is why they left it so late to make a move. Had Liverpool acted sooner they'd have had time to look elsewhere once they realised the player was staying put until his contract expires this summer. Having left it so late, however, they had nowhere to turn when they ended up empty-handed. Maybe Rodgers was not concerned about that and feels Ings is worth the wait? It's been widely rumoured that he will now join the Reds this summer, and if that is the case then that would certainly have restricted what Rodgers could do in this window, especially as Divock Origi is set to check in at Anfield this coming offseason as well. With Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling already on board, had Rodgers brought in a striker during this window, where would that have left Origi and Ings next summer?

The perfect solution would have been to get one (or both) of them in now, but for whatever reason that never materialised. Ings is worth far more to Burnley than the fee Liverpool would be looking to pay, as Premier League survival is worth at least 10 times his market value. As for Origi, that was a bizarre situation whereby due to the terms of the original transfer agreement with Lille, Liverpool would have had to pay a sizeable sum just to recall their own player from his loan. Presumably they were not prepared to do that, so they now have to make do with what they have and pray that Sturridge is finally over his injury woes.

Rickie Lambert understandably chose to stay at Anfield rather than join the relegation dogfight with Aston Villa.

Perhaps the one genuine surprise for Liverpool fans was that Rodgers did not add another goalkeeper to his squad during this window. When Simon Mignolet was dropped "indefinitely" in mid-December, many felt Liverpool must have had a deal in place for a new goalkeeper, as the alternative would be a heavy dose of Brad Jones, and with all due respect to the Aussie, no Kopite wants that.

As it turns out, Rodgers did not have a new keeper ready to go when the window opened, and he was indeed prepared to ride with Jones for an indefinite period. That's actually quite worrying. A Boxing Day injury to the Australian put paid to that plan and opened the door again for Mignolet, who has bounced back well and is arguably playing as well as he has at any point since joining the club from Sunderland 18 months ago. The improving form of the Belgian may ensure Liverpool do not live to regret their failure to address his position, but only time will tell on that, and right now it appears to be a big gamble.

Liverpool did have other needs in addition to goalkeeper and centre-forward, but those needs were not as pressing and are even less so given the significant upturn in form since just before the New Year. The change in formation has undoubtedly helped to mask certain flaws and accentuate certain strengths to the point that Liverpool look an excellent side once more.

If they get lucky with injuries, they look to have enough now to be a match for anybody over the coming months. The swagger is back in their play and -- crucially -- they are looking as though they are finally getting it right at the back too., Everything depends on the fitness of Sturridge; if he has put his injury nightmare behind him once and for all, then Liverpool's failure to add another striker needn't prove too costly. If he were to break down again, however, you can be sure there will be a lot of unhappy supporters pointing the finger at the lack of action in this window.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.


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