Liverpool miss Sturridge's vertical threat in loss to WBA

West Brom produced an unlikely 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield despite taking 20 fewer shots and being outpossessed 59% to 41%. The home side missed a slew of decent opportunities before Gareth McAuley's header put the Baggies ahead on 81 minutes, including Ben Foster's penalty save on Steven Gerrard in the 77th.

Despite controlling the balance of play and managing to force Foster into a couple of fine saves, Liverpool lacked a bit of industry in the final third, largely owing to the absence of Daniel Sturridge to a thigh problem.

Luis Suarez took up the center forward position recently occupied by Sturridge while Jonjo Shelvey played in the hole behind him. Jordan Henderson was used as a left sided attacker and Stewart Downing played on the right wing. As he so often does when lined up as the main striker, Luis Suarez would drop off the opposition center backs and collect the ball between the lines. He's tremendous at drifting into defensive seams, turning and running at the back four. However, without Sturridge's pace, Liverpool lacked anyone making runs in behind the West Brom center backs for balls to be played through. When Suarez collected the ball between the lines, no one made the type of interior run in behind that might threaten Jonas Olsson and McAuley. As a result, one center back could step to Suarez while the other sat in to provide cover.

Sturridge often tends to remain high up the pitch on the shoulder of one center back. When Suarez plays in the hole behind him and manages to get the ball in the seams it forces the free opposition center back to step out to him and opens space for Sturridge to make a diagonal run into the space opened up by the center back moving out to Suarez. Without a vertical option in behind the defense, Liverpool often shuffled the ball wide to the right where Downing and Glen Johnson looked to combine and get crosses in the box. The two combined for 17 crosses, with Downing alone crossing 13 times. Several of Downing's balls in were excellent but without a physical #9 like Andy Carroll in the side, getting the ball wide and crossing it into the box is never likely to be an effective strategy for Liverpool. Olsson and McAuley are more comfortable dealing with high balls into the area than with pacey forwards running in behind them. Only two of Downing and Johnson's 17 crosses found a Liverpool player, despite a number of them being quality balls in.

Liverpool produced some decent football at times and will feel unfortunate to have failed to take anything from a game in which West Brom produced virtually nothing offensively for the first 80 minutes. However, the absence of Sturridge's pace meant they were often forced to attack down the wings and send 50-50 balls into the box- a difficult strategy when you're playing without an actual number nine. It was no surprise then that they produced some of their best chances, including Luis Suarez winning the penalty, when Fabio Borini came on at striker and Suarez dropped into the withdrawn role. Sturridge is a more suitable center forward than Borini however and Brendan Rodgers will be keen to have him back in action. It's incredible that Liverpool have still failed to manage a win against a side in the top 10.