Daniel Sturridge is one of the most talented youngsters in the Premiership, he has all the attributes to become a fantastic player; pace, power, skill, technique and vision. There were flashes of this brilliance when he played for Manchester City, not least when he came on and inspired Manchester City to a comeback against Blackburn last season (City were 2-0 down until Sturridge scored one and set up the equaliser). Last season he made 16 league appearances and scored four goals, creating three more for his teammates.
Given this promising form, Sturridge’s move to Chelsea came as something of a surprise to me. It made sense for him to leave City after the high-profile additions to the squad; Sturridge would be well down the pecking order at Eastlands. But a move to Chelsea at this stage of his career is a questionable one. At Chelsea he must compete with Didier Drogba, Nicholas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, as well as the on loan Franco di Santo and the Italian youngster Fabio Borini. While Sturridge has great ability, he cannot be surprised to find himself on the fringes of the squad. It has been a familiar story at Chelsea in recent years with the likes of Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell and Tal Ben Haim all arriving at Chelsea with high hopes of making an impact and failing. The Africa Cup of Nations may give Sturridge an opportunity to play first team football as Kalou and Drogba will be absent, but persistent rumours of a January move for Sergio Aguero will be of concern to him.
Another issue may be Carlo Ancelotti; the Italian is a fantastic manager who has adapted to the English game remarkably quickly, but he is known for having a strong preference for experience over youth. At Milan his side was made up primarily of players over the age of 30 and youngsters found it tough to make an impact. Ancelotti was critical of another young protégé he had at his disposal when he questioned Yoann Gourcuff’s mental toughness. Gourcuff’s development was slow at Milan as a result of limited opportunities and it is only now that he has moved to Bordeaux that his talent is emerging. Alexandre Pato is another player that Ancelotti is known to have had some difficulty with managing, though the two did manage to resolve any dispute. Ancelotti is more comfortable working with older players; Sturridge and his peers will be limited to Carling Cup appearances and substitute appearances in the league when Chelsea hold commanding leads.
It is a positive thing that Sturridge has the belief in his own ability to think than he can force his way into the first team, but it may be that his Stamford Bridge adventure will have a detrimental effect in the long run. When he is next given an opportunity, the pressure will really be on him not to disappoint as he did against Bolton in the Carling Cup. How he deals with this pressure will tell Ancelotti a lot about whether Sturridge is ready to be a Chelsea player.