TAO – Liverpool Player of the Month: January

With three wins, two defeats and a draw from the six games played in January, Paul Gorst takes a look at the players who impressed most in the first month of 2013. PLAYER OF THE MONTH: LUIS SUAREZ. The Uruguayan continued his sensational form into the New Year, as he grabbed six goals in the opening month of 2013. Suarez helped himself to a double as the Reds opened the year in style in the 3-0 win over Sunderland, the first of those came on 26 minutes when he rode a robust challenge from Carlos Cuellar before bending a shot beyond Simon Mignolet with the outside of his right foot. Suarez doubled his tally just before the hour mark when he raced on to Steven Gerrard’s sumptuous pass from all of 50 yards before controlling it and stabbing past Mignolet. The former Ajax man grabbed his third of the month in somewhat controversial circumstances against Mansfield.With the ball appearing to strike his hand, Suarez then put the ball in the net with the actions of someone who expected the goal to be ruled out. The whistle never came and Suarez wheeled away with his usual wrist kissing celebration, which led to several media personalities to incorrectly view this as an affront to Mansfield. The forward was deemed a “cheat” by ESPN commentator Jon Champion and Suarez came in for criticism from several quarters. For the record, Suarez kisses his wrist because he has a tattoo of the daughter’s name, Delfina there. Liverpool’s biggest goal threat was effectively nullified in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United, as Daniel Sturridge scored his second goal for Liverpool in the defeat. The striker was back to his goal-scoring best in the 5-0 win over Norwich. Sturridge’s clever dummy from Lucas Leiva’s thorugh pass sent Suarez racing through on the Canaries’ goal. Suarez adjusted his body before glancing a left footed shot beyond Norwich stopper Bunn. Suarez continued his scoring run in the 3-2 defeat at Oldham. Picking the ball up just inside the opponent’s half, Suarez ran at the defence before runs either side from Sturridge and Borini opened up a gap for the striker. Suarez profited from a ricochet before guiding the ball beyond Latics stopper Dean Bouzanis. The 25-year-old also grabbed the opener in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal. Sturridge’s drive was saved by the legs of Szczesny and as the Gunners failed to clear the ball, the ball was laid off to Suarez who side footed beyond the stricken Polish stopper. Playing in a slightly different role wide left, Suarez nearly gave the visitors all three points deep into stoppage time, but was thwarted by a good save from Szczesny. Suarez looks certain to be crowned LFC’s Player of the Year and could be in line for awards elsewhere. Alongside Manchester United’s Robin van Persie, the Uruguayan has been the Premier League’s outstanding performer. DANIEL STURRIDGE. The £12m man, signed from Chelsea at the beginning of the transfer window has made the biggest impact so far out of all the signings made in the Premier League in the January window. The former Manchester City forward scored three goals in his first three appearances in a Red shirt, becoming the first Liverpool player since Ray Kennedy back in 1974 to do so in the process. Sturridge was unavailable for the first game of the New Year against Sunderland after completing his move earlier that afternoon, however it took just seven minutes to open his account for the Reds. In the win against Mansfield, he latched on to a through ball by Jonjo Shelvey, before slotting past ‘keeper Alan Marriott first time with his weaker right foot. The ‘wriggly arm’ dance was performed for the first time in a red shirt – something fans hope will become a regular sight. The England international then gave the Reds a fighting chance of grabbing a point at Old Trafford when he reacted first to David de Gea’s save, to side foot into an empty net. The 23-year-old then notched his final goal of the month when the much-improved Stewart Downing crossed along the goal-mouth for Sturridge to tap home his first goal in front of The Kop in the 5-0 rout of Norwich. Sturridge also made headlines for his dove-tailing with Suarez in the game, particularly when the former stepped over Lucas’ through pass to set Suarez racing through on goal to double Liverpool’s lead. The forward started in the 3-2 defeat to Oldham as Rodgers fielded an attacking line-up that had Sturridge, Suarez and Fabio Borini starting for the first time. However, Sturridge failed to mark the game in a meaningful way as the Reds crashed out. Sturridge then played the lone front man role well in the 2-2 draw at Arsenal, particularly in the first half. He was eventually replaced by Jose Enrique with 20 minutes to go, as the Reds failed to hold on to a two goal lead at The Emirates. Sturridge has made a superb start to life at Anfield, and at just £12m, the 23-year-old could prove to be a bargain, as he looks towards a long and successful stay at the club. JORDAN HENDERSON. Henderson is one of several players signed by Kenny Dalglish in 2011, who have been much maligned during their career at Anfield. The 22-year-old almost moved to Fulham on transfer deadline day in August, however Henderson preferred to stay and force his way into Brendan Rodgers’ side. The former Sunderland midfielder has grabbed his chance in the first team with both hands of late. Henderson was replaced in the 3-0 win away to Queen Park Rangers at the end of December after succumbing to a virus that was circulating around the squad, but the former England Under-21 captain returned to the first team in the 3-0 rout of Sunderland at Anfield on January 2, where his energy in the final third did not go unnoticed, particularly by Rodgers. Henderson replaced Suso with over half an hour left in the 2-1 win at Mansfield Town in the FA Cup third round on January 6, as the Reds narrowly squeezed past the Blue Square Premier side. The Reds slumped to their first defeat of the month when they were beaten 2-1 by Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Reds paid for a timid first half display when goals from Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra gave Alex Ferguson’s side a 2-0 lead. Sturridge scored his second goal for the Reds, but they were unable to grab the all important second. Henderson was given just 10 minutes to make a mark as he replaced Joe Allen, with the Reds chasing the game. Henderson then played a starring role in the 5-0 thumping at home to Norwich City on the 19th scoring a superb opener on after 26 minutes. Suarez was harried out of possession, before the ball fell invitingly to Henderson, who turned and swept the ball home into the top corner from 20-plus yards, giving goalkeeper Mark Bunn no chance. Goals, from Sturridge, Suarez, Steven Gerrard and an own goal from Ryan Bennett meant the Reds had now registered eight unanswered goals at Anfield, to somewhat relieve the criticism that they suffer from stage fright in front of their own fans. Henderson continued to flourish in the position assigned to him, operating furthest forward of the three midfielders in the rout over Chris Hughton’s side. However, Henderson was part of the team who were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One side Oldham Athletic on January 27. The defeat was the lowest point of Rodgers’ reign as manager, and the manager roundly criticised the players for their efforts. The Reds then faced an entirely different proposition a few days later when they travelled to Arsenal. Again Henderson shone as the Reds produced a superb counter attacking display that saw them take a two goal lead. The midfielder also added another goal to his statistics as he jinked past Per Metersacker before holding off the challenge of Andre Santos. His initial shot was saved by Wojciech Szczesny, but Henderson capitalised on the rebound to double the lead. Unfortunately, the Reds were unable to hold on to it as the Gunners fought back with goals from Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. Henderson’s goal was a demonstration of how he is thriving in the advanced role and it is something Rodgers should take huge credit for.