Why Liverpool Would Be Getting Chelsea's Best Striker If They Buy Daniel Sturridge
There is a video that Sky Sports produced, before the 2012 Champions League final, where Chelsea players pick teammates’ names out of a hat, and have to list the best and worst thing about the player they’ve chosen. John Terry goes first, and, surprise surprise, picks his own name out, claiming his best quality is “he’s good-looking”; an exercise in cringe. There are some more amusing moments – players banter over each other’s hair, attire, etc, before Didier Drogba picks out Daniel Sturridge’s name. Without even stopping to think, the Ivorian who won Chelsea the CL says, “he’s got a fantastic left foot, and he’s a great dancer. And the worst thing about him? He stays too long after the shower to put his nice creams on.” That, quite simply, is Daniel Sturridge in a microcosm. Talented, for sure, but like the Greek myth of Narcissus, at risk of falling in love with his own reflection and forgetting about what matters- his football.
Birmingham boy Danny Sturridge, once hailed as the next big thing and the future of English football, now spends his days festering on the Chelsea bench. As someone who watches Chelsea week-in, week-out, I can say with some authority that he doesn’t belong there; whilst he can be an extremely frustrating player, he deserves his chance to show what he can do. He hadn’t even spent 10 minutes on the White Hart Lane pitch before finding the net, a stark contrast with Fernando Torres who played the entire game, and, as is the status quo for the blonde flop, did not score.
Twenty-three year old Sturridge wears number 23 for Chelsea, and it’s not unfair to say the boy acts his age; not content when he’s substituted off and not afraid to show it. Perhaps it is because I recognise a kindred spirit, a diamond in the rough, but I forgive Sturridge’s displays of petulance more quickly than I forget those of Torres. However, it is important to iron out those kinks. I am supremely protective of the vast majority of Chelsea players and will allow most personality flaws, but nothing makes me despair more than seeing wasted talent. I fear that may arise with Danny. As previously mentioned, part of that is not his fault; any gaffer who manages Chelsea seems under implicit instructions to constantly field Torres, else his job is on the line. But Sturridge is naïve if he thinks that sulking when he doesn’t play is going to earn him the starts that he so craves. When it comes to the carrot or the stick, young Daniel would do well to note that the carrot – get his head down and continue to train hard and show his worth – will get him much further than the stick – moping.
So rare have his starts been this season that it could seem difficult to forget the skills and technique Mr Sturridge has when he’s on the ball. In the home game against Manchester City in the league last season, he tore his former club to shreds down the left wing, assisting Meireles’ equaliser and then earning a penalty for Frank Lampard to score the winner to cap off a Man of the Match performance – no mean feat when the likes of Aguero and Silva were on the opposing team. It was games like that, as well as eye-catching displays against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup this season, where he gets to display his attacking prowess. Like Torres, Sturridge thrives off confidence, and his run of league games last season under Villas-Boas, albeit in a position he didn’t particularly care for, did him the world of good because the consistent starts meant he was able to weave his magic.
The thing about Daniel Sturridge that I admire so much is, a little arrogantly, a trait that I see in myself (and I’m not talking about being a slick dancer). It is that he is not afraid to make mistakes. He takes shot upon shot in games and often gets lambasted for being selfish in doing so. Of course, he is. In the loss away at West Brom he took loads of shots, none of them going in. But I would rather he kept taking speculative shots, and trying, compared to Torres, who in that game, lamentably, had a grand total of zero shots, on or off-target. When Sturridge gets egg on his face from a failed goal attempt, he shrugs, jogs back and starts again.
Plus, when his audacious shots do succeed, they’re rather brilliant. In the home game against QPR last season, I was barely sat down in the stadium before Sturridge hit the net on 45 seconds, a delicious bit of skill to cut inside and aim from 25 yards. What made it so beautiful was that it was so unexpected – I’m used to Danny trying random attempts, but for it to work?! When this happened, I had a flashback to this amazing scissor-kick Peter Crouch scored against Galatasaray as a Liverpool player. Months earlier, Crouch had contorted his body into a bizarre position against Trinidad and Tobago in the World Cup, which led to many ridiculing him for his gangliness and awkwardness. After he scored the stunning bicycle kick against Galatasaray, he admitted that that was what he had been trying to do against Trinidad and Tobago, only he’d succeeded in the former case and failed in the latter. This is a train of thought that I will forever associate with the likes of Crouch and Sturridge; if you don’t try, how can you succeed? A few duds along the way are a small price to pay for the fantastic feeling when you carry it off.
Daniel Sturridge gets lambasted from critics for being an egotist, a bit cocksure, and prone to going down easier than Tulisa. They are right. But he is also a prodigious footballer when he gets the chance. Last season he racked up a healthy number of goals and assists playing on the left wing when he has stated many times he wishes to stay upfront. If he can do that playing out of position, imagine what he can do in his natural one. The boy just needs the chance.