Brendan Rodgers has cast doubt on Daniel Sturridge’s status as Liverpool’s first-choice striker by admitting the club must sign a consistent goalscorer this summer who can perform “at a top level every week”.

Sturridge has appeared in only 18 of Liverpool’s 52 matches this season because of a variety of injuries and misses Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion with the hip problem that forced him out of the FA Cup semi-final defeat by Aston Villa. Rodgers is unsure when the England international will be next available.

The 25-year-old’s fitness record has compounded Liverpool’s problems in attack having sold Luis Suárez to Barcelona and failed to sign a replacement suited to Rodgers’ preferred style of play. Finally remedying that glaring weakness is a priority for the Liverpool manager in the summer and he admits Sturridge’s reliability has to be factored into planning for next season.

Asked whether Sturridge can be considered as Liverpool’s main striker for next season given his injury problems, Rodgers replied: “He’s not fit and once he can show that consistency and fitness, you can see in his performance level that it’s a high one. But obviously he has missed a lot of the season so we need to assess it. Either way, if he’s not available, we need to have that support.”

Rodgers added: “We have to hope with Daniel that this year was just an unlucky season and he can come back super-fit and super-strong because he has an immense talent. You can’t argue with that. He can be as good as any striker in the world with his talent.”

Nevertheless, Rodgers admits adding a top-class goalscorer will be essential to correcting this season’s faults. He said pointedly: “I need one that is going to be playing and at a top level every week.”

Sturridge and Suárez scored 52 Premier League goals between them last season as Rodgers’ team came close to winning Liverpool’s first championship since 1990. This term the established forwards – Sturridge, Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini – have produced eight league goals in total. Raheem Sterling is the leading Premier League goalscorer with seven as Liverpool’s goal ratio has plummeted from an average of 2.66 per game last season (101 in 38 league games) to 1.47 per game this campaign (47 in 32 matches).