One of the best things from an England perspective last year was just how many of the country’s better young talents were getting game time at big clubs.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were both regularly used at Manchester United; Ashley Young had a decent first season for the Red Devils, while Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck finally made the breakthrough. Kyle Walker emerged at Spurs, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott played influential roles Arsenal’s Champions League campaign, Daniel Sturridge finally made his breakthrough at Chelsea.
The former Manchester City striker played 41 matches netting 11 times, a modest tally, which is impressive when you consider the 23 year old was mainly used as a right forward. Sturridge insists his best role is as a central striker and he bagged eight goals in 12 league appearances the season before at Bolton Wanderers playing that role. At still just 23 and with a proven track record in the Premier League, it’s disappointing that while England meet up, still without an obvious striker to play in front of Wayne Rooney, Sturridge’s career is stagnating.
Roberto Di Matteo seems to have labelled Sturridge as a luxury he cannot afford out wide, with the England international’s lack of defensive awareness not to his liking. During Chelsea’s Champions League run Ramires was often favoured for his defensive qualities ahead of him, while Di Matteo famously gave specialist full-back Ryan Bertrand his first ever berth in European competition in the Champions League final as a left-midfielder.
So with opportunities out wide not likely for the striker and Fernando Torres unlikely to dropped as the club’s top central striker, Sturidge has shifted quickly down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge. While being back up at a big club is not necessarily the worst thing in the world, Sturridge has only managed two appearances this season, and has on some occasions failed the make the match-day 18.
Now while you can’t argue with Chelsea’s results in his absence and some of his short-comings and the criticisms labelled at him, when he played on the right last season, I find quite accurate, (too-one footed, too greedy, doesn’t track back enough). I still think it’s a shame to see a young English player of top six quality failing to progress in his football career.
One move Sturridge was linked with which in my opinion would have been exceptional for both parties, is a switch to Liverpool. The Merseyside club’s Achilles heel last term was goal-scoring and this season chance conversion isn’t coming any easier to Brendan Rodger’s men. It has been well-documented that there are only two specialist strikers at Anfield: Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez. Both have their flaws, and Sturridge would offer a viable alternative in a position Liverpool are short of both depth and quality.
Finally I think there is a rare x-factor with Daniel Sturridge, his summer lob for team GB remains the best goal I’ve seen in the flesh in the past three years. While his back heel against Sunderland, along with some of other strikes from the Englishman display a footballer with the audacity and self confidence to try things most professionals in the sport dare not.
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