Supposedly inferior opposition, a dismal performance and a disgruntled Anfield crowd – it is becoming a familiar refrain for Liverpool supporters.
Once again a Daniel Sturridge-less Liverpool laboured through 90 desperate minutes in their 1-1 draw with Sion in the Europa League on Thursday, and without the England striker, Brendan Rodgers’ job prospects are looking increasingly at risk.
Before last Saturday’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa, Rodgers’ Reds hadn’t scored more than one goal in a game since they beat relegation fodder QPR at Anfield 2-1 on the opening weekend of May.
Sturridge’s return to the Liverpool fold has coincided with a much more fluent display in the final third and the ex-Chelsea forward scored two goals of pure class against Aston Villa last week to ensure Rodgers’ charges picked up their first win since August 17 – when they beat Bournemouth 1-0 with a goal that should have been ruled out for offside.
Make no mistake, Sturridge represents Rodgers’ best hope of staying in the Anfield hotseat. The naysayers will be out in full force once again after the bore draw against Sion – and given the striker’s injury history, the Liverpool manager will be sweating.
An injury-plagued 12 months meant that Sturridge’s impact was minimal last term, but after missing the pre-season programme in favour of recuperation in Boston after hip surgery, Liverpool are believed to be privately confident that the 26-year-old is finally free of the niggling setbacks that ruined his campaign last term.
In the past four seasons, Sturridge has missed a total of 57 Premier League games, but a goal ratio of 0.65 gives him the highest percentage of any Liverpool player in Premier League history.
When you consider the five-time European champions have been able to boast the likes of Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen over the past 20 years, it is certainly an impressive statistic.
He has netted 37 times in just 57 appearances since his big-money switch the January 2013, and if fully fit, he is arguably one of the finest marksmen in Europe.
Sturridge was rested for the 1-1 draw with Swiss side Sion, and as the raw Divock Origi toiled up top alongside the energetic Danny Ings, frustration set in around Anfield as they watched their team fail to beat a side who were expected to be the whipping boys of Group B.
Rodgers will have surveyed this week’s fixtures and correctly surmised that with the Merseyside derby to come on Sunday, he had bigger fish to fry than Sion – but the manner of the performance will have alarmed him privately, surely?
Most supporters are still reeling from the fact that their team needed penalties to see off a League Two side in the form of Carlisle United in the Capital One Cup last week, and while the win against Villa papered over some cracks, the display against Sion will have re-opened the gaping holes.
The return of captain Jordan Henderson cannot come soon enough for Rodgers. His leadership qualities, boundless energy and incisive passing have been sorely missed over the past six weeks, but if Rodgers needs swift redemption, then it is Sturridge who will likely provide it.