During Daniel Sturridge’s five months on the sidelines Liverpool missed their striker – so the song goes – like the deserts miss the rain.
Yet, four starts and as many substitute appearances into his comeback, there have been enough dissatisfying aspects to his performances to have fans feeling uneasy, namely:
Holding on to the ball too long
The history books may have recounted a rather different tale of Liverpool’s latest trip to Istanbul if Sturridge had simply shot when played through in the first half.
A positively Arsenal-esque reticence in pulling the trigger has been a frustrating feature of his play since returning to the fray.
Less drifting out into wide positions
During the glory days of last season’s axis with Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling the Birmingham born centre-forward would often take up positions on the flanks.
A dearth of smiles
Sturridge has shown a tendency for surliness on occasions before, yet his borderline refusal to celebrate Mario Balotelli’s penalty against Besiktas was a troubling reaction nonetheless.
A newfound predilection for shooting with his right foot
Having been lethal last season despite displaying a Christian-Vieri like preference for his favoured foot the striker has shown an uncommon interest in having a dig with his lesser side of late.
It poses the question – if these are the symptoms then just what is the underlying cause? We posit four theories below…
An inflated opinion of his importance to the team? Having seen Liverpool a shadow of their 2013/14 incarnation for the majority of his time out Sturridge could be forgiven for getting a little big-headed.
Trying too hard to impress? Conversely he may simply be so keen to showcase the skills that have been on ice since August that he’s neglecting to keep it simple.
Still struggling for fitness? Withdrawn in three of his four starts since returning to the fold a lack of match-sharpness would be the most reassuring excuse.
The psychological after-effects of injury? Having been out for so long it was mooted that the delay in Sturridge’s return may have been exacerbated by the psychological impact his ailments have had on his ability to push himself physically.