Two games into the season, Liverpool finds itself tied for second place near the top of the Premier League table with Tottenham Hotspur. It’s the first time the Red have won their first two games of the season since 2008-09, a campaign that saw them finish in second place with 86 points.
More importantly, the club is now 5-0-1 during the first six games they have played without Luis Suárez, who has four more matches left on his suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
It would be a bit daft to try and use Liverpool’s short-term run of success to build an argument that they are better off without the talented but mercurial Suárez. After all, the quality of the opposition has played a significant role in Liverpool’s success. Newcastle United, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, Stoke City and Aston Villa are the five teams the Reds have beaten, and they certainly do not fall into the category of a murder’s row of opponents.
Be that as it may, Liverpool is winning and, in the process, is learning a valuable lesson – how to win without Suárez. And if they can remember that lesson, it just may carry them throughout the upcoming season and make it an unexpected success.
The biggest beneficiary of Suárez’ absence has been striker Daniel Sturridge. In the four games he has appeared in since the suspension, Sturridge has scored seven goals – including the game winners in both matches so far this season.
You can see Sturridge’s confidence grow every time walks onto the pitch without Suárez, and that confidence was on full display against Aston Villa when he scored a goal on a shot that he probably would not have even attempted at this time last season.
Manager Brendan Rodgers sees it, too.
“Firstly, it’s opportunity and confidence,” Rodgers told ESNFC.com. “He’s a player who thrives on confidence. He’s come into a really special football club where the supporters have made him feel really welcome and he’s thriving on that. He’s a number nine, he can move, he can spring, he’s a really good footballer as well, he’s not just a goal scorer. You see his movement, his touch, and he’s thrived on the confidence of his teammates and the people around the club.”
Overall, Sturridge has scored 12 goals in his 13 starts since joining Liverpool in January from Chelsea on a £12 million transfer – and is only scratching the surface of his talent, according to Rodgers.
“The frightening thing is that he has still got a bit to go in terms of his fitness,” Rodgers told The Daily Mail. “I think once he is fully fit then he will be even better. If you assess the world’s great strikers – the pace and power they have, the touch, good in the air, two good feet, super quick – then he possesses all of that.
“All we demand is he works his socks off. When he does that all his natural talent comes out, and when that comes out there are not too many better.”
If Sturridge can keep that form once Suárez returns to the lineup – and if Rodgers can effectively work both of them into the lineup – then this season may turn into something special.