Brendan Rodgers was not going to be drawn on possible comparisons with Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Ian Rush after watching Daniel Sturridge make it 12 goals in 16 Premier League appearances since moving to Anfield but the Liverpool manager had no qualms about describing the 23-year-old forward as "potentially the top English striker".
A peripheral figure across three and a half largely frustrating years at Chelsea after a high-profile move from Manchester City, Sturridge joined Liverpool for £12m in January, with a warning from Rodgers that he was "probably on his last chance" with a major club.
The implication was clear: he needed to perform in a Liverpool shirt. Sturridge has done that – and more, averaging a goal every 106 minutes in the Premier League in 2013, including, in the absence of the suspended Luis Suárez, registering the only strike against Stoke City and Aston Villa in this season's first two matches.
"It's about consistency," Rodgers said, when asked about parallels with the prolific Liverpool strikers of yesteryear. "Strikers are judged on goals in games and if you judge him on that his record's very good. But it's still very early, he has a lot more to do, but there is no question he's potentially the top English striker. He's got all the tools to be that. He can move, he can sprint, he's a really good footballer as well, he's not just a goalscorer.
"If you look at Daniel Sturridge and what he has, as long as he continues and keeps his fitness, he would be a big threat for any team. You'd look at him and people would think he'd maybe be a Brazilian striker with his body physique and his pace and power. England are fortunate to have him because he's a big talent but he knows he needs to be consistent, he needs to get himself the games and the goals. I have got no doubt, though, that he will be a massive asset for England."
While Sturridge's ability has rarely been questioned, doubts have been raised about his attitude in the past. "I think when you're a young player in amongst superstars, maybe like he was at his other clubs, you're fighting for your place in the hierarchy. Your ego is out there and you're trying to position yourself where you think you are," Rodgers said.
"Here, he's comfortable in terms of he knows where he sits. He's got the England captain [Steven Gerrard] behind him, advising him and guiding him, all his team-mates are fighting and running and working and he's very much a part of that. So he's got no arrogance; he's got a lovely footballing arrogance but as a human being he's a wonderful boy."
Sturridge's goal was beautifully taken on an evening when he was not the only Liverpool player to make a valuable contribution for the second week running. Simon Mignolet followed up his penalty stop against Stoke with a superb late save to deny Christian Benteke the equaliser Villa deserved on the balance of play.
"You always say that a good goalkeeper will save you up to 10 points a season," Rodgers said. "Last week he saved us two points with the penalty and against Villa he's made a terrific save at the end, so if you want to count that as another two, he's up four points already in the first two games. I think it's so important you've got a top keeper and we've got one at 25 now who's really hungry and really wants to play and improve."
For Villa, the frustration was tangible. Although they were the better team in the second half, they lacked a creative spark and seemed a little flat on the back of two tough away games at Arsenal and Chelsea. "I knew we would have an adverse reaction to the three games in the week somewhere along the line," Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, said. "But I've got nothing but praise for the team. We went toe-to-toe with three of the very top sides and if we can carry on like that we will have a right good season."
Man of the match Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
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