Brendan Rodgers outlined why he expects new signing Daniel Sturridge to thrive at Liverpool after watching his team dismantle Sunderland 3-0 at Anfield.
The striker put pen to paper on a long-term deal with the Reds after completing a transfer from Chelsea earlier on Wednesday afternoon.
Sturridge took his place in the Anfield directors’ box to watch Raheem Sterling add to a Luis Suarez brace to secure a comprehensive win for Liverpool — and Rodgers is now looking forward to seeing our new No. 15 take his place in the team.
“He’s a player that I have known since he was about 12 years of age,” the boss told his post-match press conference. “I’ve seen him come through the various clubs. He made his name as a youngster at Manchester City and was one of the top young strikers in European football.
“He made a move [to Chelsea] and it’s difficult when you make a move as a young player.
“He’s a goalscorer and the only spell he’s really had that was at Bolton, but when he’s played games, he’s got goals.
“He gives us power, presence and mobility at the top of the field — and I think the biggest thing is hunger.
“We’re bringing in a player who knows he has to perform if he wants to be at one of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s probably his last chance, and that was probably one of the reasons as well.
“He’s got qualities, but if he wants to stay at the big level then this is probably his last chance. I’ve got every faith over his time here he’ll prove a real hit and he gives us another attacking threat at the top end of the field.”
While Suarez’s second two-goal salvo and outstanding performance in four days will undoubtedly grab the headlines, Rodgers was eager to highlight an impeccable display from Steven Gerrard.
The captain claimed two assists for Suarez’s goals — including a stunning 50-yard pass for the second — and the manager is relishing the prospect of Sturridge learning from his peers, such as the Reds No. 8.
“Daniel will learn off the top players that are here,” said Rodgers. “He’s coming in to work with the England captain, who I’ve got to say over the four games he’s played over this period, people have talked about Steven Gerrard not being fit — the guy has been absolutely phenomenal.
“You see his running there at the end and that pass … you won’t see a better pass than that this season. It was an absolutely incredible performance by him.
“Daniel is going to learn from everyone, really. He’s coming into a club with values and ethics that have been retained for over many, many years. He’ll not learn only about football, he’ll learn about being a top human being.”
On the field, Rodgers was left elated by the effort and application of his side, who made it nine points from a possible 12 over the Festive period with another resounding victory.
“You have got to give massive credit to the players,” he said. “The effort they put into the game tonight, as well as the quality, was phenomenal.
“It was the fourth game [over the Festive period]. You look throughout the country and there are a lot of tired players and performers having had to play four games in such a short period, but you look at the intensity and conditioning of our players tonight and the work they put into the game, married with the quality, was fantastic.
“Credit to Sunderland. They’re a good side and have had some good results recently. Under Martin [O'Neill] they’re very competitive and tough to beat, but I thought our superiority in the game was good and I’m very, very pleased.”
The victory moved Liverpool into eighth in the Barclays Premier League table, and Rodgers feels there have been genuine indications in recent weeks that his football philosophies are really being embraced by the squad.
“We had a similar performance against QPR, where we were terrific,” he added. “Of course you’d want 12, but nine points out of 12 over a really busy period, we’d have probably taken that.
“We were disappointed with the Stoke performance. We let everyone down — the supporters and ourselves — that night. But the reaction from that — six goals, two clean sheets and two outstanding performances. That shows you the type we have here.
“Sometimes you only get credit when you win. For us, we’ve drawn a lot of games and haven’t quite got the credit because we haven’t won the game, but these players over the course of the season have done very, very well and haven’t got the points total we deserve.
“But I believe in the second half of the season we’ll be able to up the tempo and we can kick on. You see the nature of our game now — our pressing, the intensity, our pressure, the superiority we’re gaining in midfield in order to control games and creating many chances — we had 29 shots tonight.
“It’s about consistency and hopefully we can get that over the coming months and years.”
Rodgers’ final word on a highly satisfactory day for Liverpool went to Suarez.
The Uruguay striker’s latest brace took his tally for the season so far to 18 — one more than his entire total for 2011-12 — and the manager feels the No. 7 is flourishing in the current system.
“I was talking to [Queens Park Rangers manager] Harry Redknapp the morning after the game at the weekend, and we were saying Suarez is a Messi-type character,” Rodgers explained.
“At the beginning of the season when I was giving him a wee breather, he didn’t want it. For me, he’s a player that has to play two or three times a week to be at the top of his game — one game a week is no good for him. He needs to be playing and you see the response you get from him. His work has never dropped, he’s a real team player, he trains every day, he’s never in the treatment room and then he goes out and performs.
“I think with the fluidity of the team, as the ball moves he gets the chance to find the spaces. If he’s playing in a style that’s direct, he doesn’t get the chance to move. But in a structure where the ball is moving, his cleverness and intelligence finds the space.
“You can see he is thriving in the team at the moment. He signed a new deal in the summer and it’ll be fantastic to see him develop because I still think there’s a long way to go in his development.”