EPL: Suarez & Sturridge, Oezil & Cazorla

SUAREZ & STURRIDGE

In January 2013, with Daniel Sturridge's mentality in serious doubt and with Luis Suarez already plotting his escape, no-one could ever have expected that the two of them would form such an incredible partnership.

In January 2014, there was no team in Europe that wouldn't be terrified to play against them.

The statistics are amazing.

Sturridge has 14 Premier League goals, despite missing almost a quarter of the entire season with injury.

He is so consistent that he has failed to score in only three games.

Suarez is even more astonishing. Having missed the first five games of the season seeing out the end of his Bite-Gate ban, he's hit 23 goals, including four against Norwich and three against West Brom.

Their success is a testament to the management skills of Brendan Rodgers.

New Swansea boss Garry Monk said recently that Rodgers was the best man-manager he had ever worked with because he was so honest that no player could ever have a legitimate problem with him.

Perhaps this is why Suarez and Sturridge seem to respect him more than they would other managers.

Suarez's path seemed set in the summer.

When footballers demand moves, they usually get them.

Instead, he simply knuckled down and got on with his job.

With the club valuing him at around £70 million ($145m), perhaps he's just attempting to prove to potential suitors that he's worth the price.

WORTHY

He's certainly stating his case well.

Outside of the supernatural pantheon which houses Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Suarez is arguably the best of the rest.

Sturridge's transformation is even more remarkable.

He couldn't and wouldn't pass the ball at Chelsea, but now, he's a selfless and willing member of a red passing machine.

There are still the occasional moments of greediness, but what kind of a striker would he be if there were not?

A year ago, arrogant and unwilling to learn, he could be used as a poster boy for everything that's wrong with young English footballers.

Now he's the opposite. He's an example for young talent everywhere.

Arsenal have proved to be a resilient team this season.

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are arguably the best defensive pairing in the country.

But they will have their work cut out here. Sturridge and Suarez are on fire and they will not be snuffed out easily.

OEZIL & CAZORLA

While Liverpool boast the best finishers, Arsenal have a supply line that most teams could only dream of fielding.

With Santi Cazorla and Mesut Oezil in midfield, there is no shortage of creativity.

The Reds could play with a flat back six and you'd still back them to make a few chances.

Some Arsenal fans have had the temerity to complain about Oezil's contribution to the cause, moaning that he hasn't delivered value for money.

Given how much many of them clamoured for serious money to be spent, you'd think they'd have a bit more patience.

Oezil hasn't hit the heights that we know he is capable of reaching, but he has shown enough to justify a little faith.

His touch is sublime, his movement intelligent and, when he spots a space, he's capable of delivering a ball exactly where it needs to go.

His assist for the opening goal against Coventry in the FA Cup was exquisite evidence of his powers.

As he adjusts to the game in England, he will become more consistent and more effective.

And the fans who have doubted him may have cause to feel very silly indeed.

There has never been any doubt about Cazorla.

The Spaniard settled into English football instantly, bouncing off some of the sterner challenges and rising to his feet without being rattled.

He is a masterful distributor of the ball, blessed with an eye so sharp that he can look through players, lift the ball over them with the outside of his foot while teammates from the wings dart into the space that he shouldn't have been able to see.

With three goals in his last three games, he's also a serious threat when he gets within range of the goal.

Not especially swift on his feet, he allows other players to make the moves and ensures that the ball is waiting for them when they arrive.

If Liverpool can't shut down these two and, given Lucas Leiva's absence, they could be in real trouble.

Last November, Arsenal ran through them at will, leaving Steven Gerrard trailing in their wake.

A new plan is required or the outcome will be exactly the same.

npsports@sph.com.sg

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