The most surprising thing about Daniel Sturridge failing to score in Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Southampton, was being surprised that this was the case. Few would have foreseen when he moved to Anfield18 months ago that it would become customary to expect him to score in every game.
But this expectation does not come without good reason. In his last 10 Premier League games he’s scored 10 goals. In the four cup appearances he’s made this season, he’s found the net three times. And since joining Liverpool from Chelsea last January, he’s managed to get 32 goals in 39 appearances.
When the stats for this season are taken alone, Sturridge finds himself in exalted company. In the 20 league appearance that he’s made this season he’s scored 18 times. This strike rate is only marginally short of the 22 goals Ronaldo has managed in his 23 games in La Liga, and far greater than the 15 Messi has got in his 19 matches.
Such has been the level of the Englishman’s performances that it has become customary to be more surprised when he doesn’t score than when he does. And yet the most remarkable thing about Sturridge’s form remains the lack of fanfare surrounding it.
If fellow England striking partner Wayne Rooney was playing at a similar level there would be undoubted national hysteria. As we’re in a World Cup year, the column inches devoted to the role that he could play in a potential England challenge would be endless. People would again be feeling optimistic about England’s chances – the ‘golden generation’ had done us little good but a talisman in this kind of form may be all that is needed.
Yet despite having an England forward in such incredible form, it would seem that Sturridge doesn’t have the requisite ‘name’ to generate such furrow. While he showed plenty of potential from an early age, he did not break onto the scene as a teenager with wonder goals, in the way that Rooney and Beckham. Certain levels of hype are undoubtedly reserved for such players that capture the imagination in this way and are forever burdened by an air of expectancy for the privilege.
Even short of this ‘national hero’ status, one would still expect Sturridge to be receiving more credit than he has so far for his performances this season. However, despite scoring 10 in his last 10 games, the Liverpool man has been coming into nearly as much criticism as praise.
The charge against him is one of selfishness. There have been suggestions that Sturridge should be doing more to help Suarez, and moments such as when he chose to shoot against Everton when his strike-partner was better placed do not help his case. The fact that Sturridge’s recent goal surge has coincided with a relative drought for the Uruguayan would seem to further support this argument. However, it’s hard to see how this is a problem if Surridge keeps on scoring at the rate he has been and makes the criticism leveled at the Englishman seem premature at the very least.
If these accusations were entirely recent creations then they would be absolutely absurd. However, Daniel Sturridge has an unsavory reputation for himself in his short career. At Manchester City he was seen as being too interested in the fame and money side of the game, and at Chelsea many felt public unhappiness at being deployed out wide was a sign of arrogance. The result of the latter saw the young man often choosing to shoot when teammates were better placed.
So while these moments of selfishness may not be anything new, they are now accompanied with a far greater return of goals. When once it may have been fair to criticise the Englishman for such slips, it now only seems odd.
How big a role the reputation he gained in his early career has had on the relative lack of praise Sturridge has received is impossible to measure. However, it’s hard not to feel that Daniel Sturridge deserves more credit than he’s getting.