Brendan Rodgers may be plying his trade at Celtic FC in Scotland now but things could have been entirely different for the former Swansea City boss had a couple of things gone his way towards the end of the 2013-14 season when he was at the Liverpool helm.
While those incidents and the manifestations that followed are still fresh in the minds of the Anfield faithful, their title charge was exemplified no better than the deadly strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Famously known as SAS, the duo scored a combined total of 52 league goals and complimented each other so well, it was impossible for the majority of their domestic rivals to cope with them. While the careers of both players have headed in the different directions post the juggernaut they established, their flamboyance and versatility has not been matched, let alone emulated at Liverpool in the years leading to this day.
Mediocre league finishes of 6th and 8th have hardly done justice to that stellar season but it is often cited a noticeable lack of firepower up front has been the Merseyside club’s Achilles heel. The season after Suarez made a big money move to Barcelona, the goals dried up for Liverpool. Nobody entered double figures as they netted the exact same number of goals in an entire season as did SAS in 2013-14. They managed to score 63 last year with Jurgen Klopp replacing Brendan Rodgers in October but that still highlighted a familiar problem with the club, the absence of a world class strike force.
Some fans may argue the likes of Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino fit the bill in that regard but they do not take up positions in the box as much as Suarez or Sturridge do. A big chunk of Liverpool’s attacking problems can be attributed to Sturridge’s injury nightmares too as the striker has had to deal with way too many spells on the sidelines since his breakthrough season at the club. With Mario Balotelli labelled an Anfield outcast and Christian Benteke all set for a move to Crystal Palace, Klopp is now reliant on the injury-riddled Sturridge, Danny Ings and Divock Origi to deliver the goods on the pitch.
The addition of Sadio Mane from Southampton has been a useful one. The former Red Bull Salzburg hitman scored a fantastic solo goal against Arsenal on his competitive debut for Liverpool and provided a clear sign of things to come for the Merseysiders with a majestic display. By deploying three attacking midfielders in a dynamic 4-3-3 formation, Klopp opted against using an out-and-out striker and has demonstrated that decision in the past as well. It remains to be seen whether this theme becomes central to Liverpool’s top four and possibly title march this season but the inclusion of a striker remains imperative in the eyes of many.
Origi and Ings are both young and eager to impress. They suffered bouts of injury spells last season though and will be keen to start afresh. While the Arsenal game showcased how attractive and ruthless Liverpool can be in attack, there are sterner tests to come and the likelihood of the False 9 system reaping any rewards in those games is much lower. This will undoubtedly force Klopp to turn to his target men and play with a focal point.
All that said and done, Liverpool are still miles away from reaching the dizzy heights of attacking euphoria with Suarez and a fit Sturridge together. This is partly due to the fact that Origi and Ings are far from the finished products yet although a significant chunk of it can be pointed towards a system that does not suit a centre-forward. It is important to remember that purely from a statistical viewpoint, Liverpool scored over 100 league goals with SAS and haven’t even come remotely close to that in the seasons thereafter. One outstanding performance against an Arsenal side with a makeshift centre-back pairing is not entirely conclusive and a lot will be required of the attacking gauntlet at Anfield to act as a testament to the expectations shattered by that glorious duo, let alone surpass it.