Daniel Sturridge has said he struggled to come to terms with Liverpool’s late collapse in the title race last season but believes Brendan Rodgers’ players are mentally prepared for another Premier League challenge.
The England international secured Liverpool’s first win of the campaign with the winning goal against Southampton on Sunday and afterwards claimed last season’s runners-up can be stronger despite Luis Suárez’s departure for Barcelona. Eight summer signings is one reason for Sturridge’s confidence, and the 24-year-old also believes the painful experience of last season’s title slip will be a motivating factor at Anfield this term.
Sturridge, whose strike against Southampton took his Liverpool total to a remarkable 36 goals in 50 appearances, said: “The manager has made some great signings and we are looking forward to having a successful season. Everyone is hungry for success here.
“We were heartbroken last season but we have got ourselves mentally ready, especially with the Champions League. That is something I can’t wait to play in, nor can anyone else here. It took a while to get over last season.
“It’s not easy to get over something like that, it’s not easy at all, but we are over it and we are looking forward to the future. God willing, we will bring success to the club. I’m certainly thankful for everything that has come my way. Long may it continue.”
Suárez’s exit and Liverpool’s on-going search for a top class replacement has increased responsibility on Sturridge this season, even though he weighed in with 21 league goals last term and has had a more prolific start to his Anfield career than any player since George Allan in the late 19th century. Liverpool were far from their fluent best against Ronald Koeman’s team but Sturridge insists the victory demonstrated the team’s resolve and ability to grind out results when necessary.
He explained: “Last week, we played Dortmund in a friendly. They were fantastic opposition but the way we played against them was completely different to Southampton. It is important to win games of this nature; it is important to have that belief in the squad that whether things are going our way or not, we can still win it.
“It’s very important for us to show resilience and have the mentality to show we can fight as a team. In these instances, when we play against teams that are going to make it very difficult for us to break them down, we have to try and find different ways to win games whether it be individual brilliance, poacher’s goals, a set piece or something. It doesn’t matter how, we have to win these games by any means possible. This shows we can win the dirty games as well as playing the nice football, with the intricate moves and the one-twos around the box.”
Liverpool’s title prospects have been written off in many quarters since they sold Suárez, a point not lost on Rodgers, but Sturridge believes the collective strength that has developed within the manager’s playing style will withstand the loss of one key talent.
He added: “It’s early in the season but we have got a confidence and belief in our squad. It doesn’t matter who the opposition is. We have got a belief in the manager’s philosophy, in the individuals we have and in the way we play collectively. We believe we can beat anyone. We have got off to a good start but there are 37 more games to go. It is very early to say who is going to win the league, who is going to be in the top four. We go about our business silently. Last season we were underdogs and this season we will be underdogs. We just go out and try and perform as best as we can. It doesn’t matter what the opposition is, it doesn’t faze us.”