EPL: Beware of Sturridge and Suarez

Suarez (L) and Sturridge (R).

When two strikers are picked together, post-modern football pundits practically foam at the mouth.

Two centre forwards are a throwback to a distant age when dinosaurs roamed the penalty box is the popular cry.

Archaic managers like Roy Hodgson cling to their 4-4-2 roots like a medieval peasant clinging to the notion of the world being flat.

In these enlightened times of 4-2-3-1, or even 4-2-4 when the Spaniards are involved, a manager who favours two strikers is clearly a page short of a coaching manual.

So when Brendan Rodgers declared early on his intention to partner Daniel Sturridge with Luis Suarez, the knee-jerk reaction was as predictable as it was tiresome.

How could they play together?

Aren't they too much alike?

Well, yes, they both score a lot of goals.

They are also reluctant to remain stationary around the penalty box. They are content to drift away from markers. They are happy to forage from the flanks. They move. They retreat. They infiltrate.

In other words, their shared strengths determine their compatibility to play together.

Neither man covets the same spot in a manner more typical of a modern centre forward such as Didier Drogba.


They are not standalone totem poles expected to play with their backs to goals as worshipping teammates dance around, dropping balls at their feet.

Roberto Soldado, Samuel Eto'o, Darren Bent, Peter Odemwingie, Marouane Chamakh and the hapless Modibo Maiga, among others, are certainly cast as the lone gunmen at their respective clubs and ordered to hold the fort until the cavalry arrives.

But Suarez, and increasingly Sturridge, take on dual roles.

They play both gunslinger and the cavalry, supplying and firing Liverpool's ammunition.

They hit without being hit because they are moving targets.

Against Sunderland on Sunday, Sturridge scored the opener and provided the assists for Suarez's double through intelligent design on their manager's part.

Their partnership is more by judgment than luck.

With Glen Johnson still injured, Rodgers opted for a 3-5-2 formation which packed the midfield and allowed his front men to seek space out wide.

Suarez headed left, Sturridge turned to the right. They both profited through the middle.

Liverpool's superb second goal was orchestrated by Steven Gerrard spotting Sturridge scampering down the right.

The English forward then found his strike partner. He repeated the trick on the counter-attack to confirm one of the Premier League's most promising attacking partnerships.

To suggest that two players who are comfortable at both cutting inside from the touchline and slicing through centre backs cannot function together is naive.

Rodgers would say the claim was nonsensical.

He believes he has the best pair in the EPL.

Unless the two literally bump into each other chasing down the same ball - which should rarely happen at a Sunday morning kick-around at Bishan Park much less at Anfield - there is certainly a case to be made for the duo establishing the most prolific goal supply in English football.

Sturridge already has seven in all competitions, Suarez bagged a brace in 90 minutes and the eventual return of Philippe Coutinho will be viewed as complementing the line-up, rather than a tactical conundrum.

Such a speedy, creative, improvisational triangle has been conspicuous by its absence at Manchester United in recent weeks.

On their day, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney remain the gold standard of strike partnerships, but they haven't been on their day too often.

Either the Dutchman is injured or Rooney is sulking.

Van Persie is working his way back to full fitness and Rooney may never shake off the petulance until he gets the transfer he still appears to crave (expect further instability and possible bids in the January window), but the more pressing issue is service.

Weak Devils

Creativity is proving hard to come back at Old Trafford. The forwards are willing, but the service is weak.

Of the four strikers, Sturridge is the least experienced. But his link-up play continues to improve as Rodgers tempers the selfishness inherent in all strikers. The more Sturridge gives Suarez, the more he will receive from the grateful Uruguayan.

Their reciprocal relationship will allow the Reds to flourish and validate Rodgers' bold prediction.

Sturridge and Suarez may not yet be the most talented striking pair in the Premier League, but they could become the most productive.

Get The New Paper for more stories.