Liverpool legend Kevin Keegan has criticised Brendan Rodgers for expecting Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling to fill the void left by Luis Suarez, reports the Daily Star.
Suarez left Anfield for Barcelona last summer, after driving the team to a late title challenge with 31 Premier League goals. This left the Reds with a hole to fill, and they signed strikers Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert in the same transfer window. However, most of the slack was expected to be picked up by Sterling and Sturridge, who had both impressed alongside the Uruguayan in the campaign prior to him departing.
Neither of the England internationals has been able to do so, with injuries and form both factors in their disappointing seasons. Sturridge has been unable to get back to full fitness since picking up a problem while on England duty last September. Meanwhile his 20-year-old teammate managed just eight goals and the same number of assists in 47 appearances, not performing well while the team was struggling.
To make matters worse Sterling is now involved in a contract fiasco with the club hierarchy, having rejected a £100,000 a week offer. The forward could very well leave Merseyside in the coming transfer window.
Keegan said: “With the greatest respect to the other Liverpool strikers, Luis Suarez was the main reason why Liverpool were doing so well. I don’t say that out of disrespect to the other players, it’s just a fact. So you take him out and then you are asking someone like Sturridge and someone as young as Sterling to step up to the plate.
“It’s a big ask because they are not yet at the level of experience that Suarez has. He’s 27/28, whilst they are still learning the game so it’s difficult. When they say to you, ‘right Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, you are our main man’ then that’s a bit different because then you are expected to be consistently good every single week.”
He continued: “Sometimes you can find yourself looking at a younger player of 23 to suddenly go out there and carry a team like Liverpool which is not easy and there’s not many can do that. The press that build you up will soon knock you down so it’s a learning curve for a lot of players. Some can handle it and some can’t.
“The only way you can prove yourself is on a football field and you have a guy trying to stop you playing every week. You have to overcome that first and then score goals, and do it consistently.”