ARROGANT, selfish and an inflated sense of self-worth. All these things have been leveled at Daniel Sturridge in recent times, but even more so after reports started that his 3 and a half year spell at Chelsea was to come to an end, with a £12m move to Liverpool. Are these tags fair? And just how good is the left footed forward?
When news broke that Liverpool were to sign another young British player for a significant transfer fee, several ex-players and media pundits had their say on the matter. Stan Collymore used his newspaper column to state his belief that Sturridge is not the answer to Liverpool’s goalscoring problems, and Steve Nicol told ESPN that he did not think Sturridge was the right player for Liverpool to target. Both felt that a pure number 9 in the mould of Darren Bent would be more suitable. Let’s take a look at Sturridge’s career this far, his suitability to Liverpool’s football, and whether all the pre-conceptions about him have any merit.
After coming through the ranks at Manchester City, he left the club at the end of his contract to join Chelsea. He always maintained it was because he saw his first-team chances at City being limited by the imminent arrival of numerous big-name strikers. This did not ring true to many, especially as Chelsea had a strong striking pool, but the club had not generally been spending big money since the second summer under Mourinho, and Sturridge arrived at Chelsea as the third choice central striker. “Studge” had to bide his time under Carlo Ancelotti in that first season, making only 6 starts in all competitions. He did, however, score 4 goals in the 3 FA Cup games he started as the centre forward, and ended the season with 5 goals in total. In his second season at the club, he only started 3 games in the first half of the season, one being in the League Cup and the two others in the Champions League. He scored in both of those Champions League starts. With Fernando Torres’ £50m move to the club in January, Sturridge departed on loan to Bolton. 8 league goals arrived in just 12 appearances (11 starts), and he appeared to grow up as a player. This meant that in two seasons, Sturridge had scored 15 goals in just 20 starts. What he really needed was a chance to play regularly, and that arrived under André Villas-Boas, who used Sturridge as an inverted winger on the right flank – a role similar to the one Hulk had played for Villas-Boas at Porto. The young left-footer responded to the confidence shown in him.
In his first 19 games of last season, Sturridge scored 10 goals in just 1322 minutes.
That’s a goal every 1.5 games on average, which is a fantastic return from the right flank.
9 of those goals came in the Premier League, so it’s not as if his total was inflated by goals in the Carling Cup.
He scored 7 of those 10 goals away from home.
His goals came against Sunderland (A), Bolton (A), Everton (H), Everton (A), Wolves (H), Newcastle (A), Liverpool (H), Wigan (A) and Tottenham (A). He was scoring goals against strong opposition.
Of those 10 goals, 2 were equalisers, 3 were the first goal in games, and 2 proved to be the match winning goals. Again, he was not scoring the the 4’th or 5’th goal in a comfortable win.
After this, with the side struggling, Villas-Boas changed tactics. He switched to a much deeper defensive line, no pressing high up the pitch, and asked the wide players to drop far deeper, instead of pressing the opposition fullbacks as before. This was not a role that suited Sturridge, and his goals unsurprisingly dried up. After Roberto Di Matteo took over as manager, the wide players were required to do even more defensive work. Sturridge lost his place in the first-choice XI. Although he started 10 games under the Italian, it was usually wide on the left, and in a completely changed lineup as Chelsea rested players for the Champions League. Sturridge ended the season with 13 goals and 9 assists. He was Chelsea’s top scorer in all competitions from open-play. This was despite only playing 45 minutes as a central striker all season. That start was at Blackburn in the league, but he was moved back to the flank at half-time after Florent Malouda’s poor performance. Faith was instead shown in Fernando Torres, despite a 25-hour run without a goal.
Although he has always been an extremely direct player, often dribbling or shooting instead of passing, his reputation appeared to reach a tipping point after an FA Cup game against Leicester. With Chelsea cruising to victory, Sturridge spent the last 30 minutes shooting from every angle, and ignoring better placed teammates. Although this is something that had been seen on occasion in the past, a raft of “Sturridge is selfish” articles and blog posts were published after the game. What people did not realise was that Sturridge had been wearing a “Pray 4 Muamba” shirt and had been desperate to score to pay tribute to his friend. No matter, the damage to his reputation was irreversible.
If people bothered to delve a bit deeper, they would remember his superb wing-play to beat Gaël Clichy and then Patrice Evra to set up goals in crucial home games against the Manchester clubs.
Off the field, Sturridge is an excellent professional who has had a good upbringing. In 2010, he made it clear in an interview that he prefers quiet evenings with his girlfriend rather than going out partying:
My girlfriend is a drama student so I rehearse lines with her. We go to watch a lot of shows together. I’m not like everyone else. I only have one girlfriend, I don’t go out to clubs and go drinking.
This season has practically been a write-off for him after a severe case of Meningitis meant he had no real preseason before the Olympics. He had the occasional appearance from the substitutes bench, but only one start in the Capital One Cup and one in the Premier League. After starting on the wing, and then moving up front in the league defeat at West Brom, Sturridge missed a couple of gilt-edge chances. However, his absolutely sublime movement impressed everyone, and he appeared in line to start the crucial Champions League fixture in Turin against Juventus. However, he injured his hamstring the day before the game and was ruled out for a number of weeks. This was his second serious hamstring injury of the season – hardly surprising considering his lack of preseason training.
It will interesting to see where Sturridge fits in at Liverpool. Click below to read page 2.