At the young age of 23, Daniel Sturridge has already plied his trade with three of the biggest teams in England in Manchester City, Chelsea and now Liverpool. But there is no doubt that it is with the Reds that he has exhibited his true potential. With Sturridge set to start against his former employers over the weekend, he will look to remind them of just what they lost when the Blues decided to let him go during the January transfer window.
The Birmingham born striker arrived at West London after Carlo Ancelotti had taken over the reins at Stamford Bridge. With Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka ahead of him in the pecking order, it was a known fact that Sturridge would have to make do with limited opportunities to showcase his talent. With Drogba’s absence during the African Cup of Nations in 2010, it was a chance for the former Manchester City youngster to stamp his authority onto the team, but Ancelotti instead opted to field Anelka as a central striker and the club yielded the desired results.
This reluctance by Ancelotti to use Sturridge more often despite him putting on a good show everytime he came on is part of the reason why his career stalled during his first two years at Stamford Bridge. However during Sturridge’s second season at Chelsea, he saw both Anelka and Drogba hitting a rough patch.
|Sturridge found chances hard to come by under Ancelotti|
The Blues had let go of many veterans over the summer of 2010 and a host of young players from the Chelsea youth squad were promoted into the first team. But as has been the case with young players at the club, they were never given the required number of opportunities to express themselves as the managers were under pressure to win silverware.
Sturridge was given intermittent starts during which his presence considerably raised the tempo at which Chelsea operated, which wasn't the case when the likes of Drogba and Anelka being handed a start. Ancelotti strangely enough kept emphasizing that Sturridge needed to work harder and was later loaned out to Bolton Wanderers during the January transfer window to accommodate the arrival of Fernando Torres from Liverpool.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle gave Sturridge the license to express himself centrally and didn't he do that well. With 8 goals in 12 appearance for the Trotters, it seemed that he would push for a permanent move to the Lancashire club.
Sturridge's record at Chelsea and Liverpool
Meanwhile back at West London, the rest of the season panned out in a familiar fashion. Players not performing resulted in the sacking of Ancelotti and Sturridge’s development hinged upon whether the next manager to occupy the jinxed Stamford Bridge hotseat was a person who believed in youngsters.
Andre Villas-Boas’ arrival signaled a change in guard as owner Roman Abramovich wanted an immediate overhaul of the squad with young players forming the core of the side. While Ancelotti was tenative, Villas-Boas saw the potential in Sturridge and started to give him more games but in a wide-right position. But the important thing for the England international was that he was getting games on a regular basis. Sturridge scored goals frequently during the Portuguese's tenure as manager.
But Villas-Boas' time was cut short as results began to go south for the Blues. Interim manager Roberto di Matteo was one who preferred to field his team’s star strikers like Fernando Torres and Drogba to salvage something of what had been a disastrous season for the Blues. With the manager achieving an impossible double of the Champions League and FA Cup, Abramovich was in the mood to capitalize on this success to bring in younger players into the squad in the Chelsea way, buy!!
With Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin and Victor Moses being drafted in to aid Fernando Torres to reclaim the form which he had at Liverpool and Drogba’s exit from the club, Sturridge was seen as surplus to requirements. Di Matteo’s persistence to start with the Spanish striker despite his profligacy upfront was baffling. In a clear example of how Sturridge changed the dynamics of the team, one only had to take a look at Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to West Brom ahead of their Champions League tie against Juventus in Italy.
Di Matteo rested many of the club’s key players ahead of this clash and gave Sturridge a start. He was lively and kept the Baggies defence on their toes unlike Torres who barely made them work a bead of sweat. When the Blues were trailing and Juan Mata was thrown into the fray, the link up play between the Spaniard and Sturridge was sublime and nearly got them an equalizer. Even then Di Matteo did not see the value of the Englishman in the team.
|Next stop - Liverpool
When Rafael Benitez took over at Chelsea, he was charged with the task of ‘repairing’ the damage done due to the early Champions League exit. With fans not taking to the former Liverpool manager too kindly, Benitez’s only way of appeasing them was to win games and he had no interest in listening to the complaints of Sturridge’s desire to play in a striker’s position which was the cue for the England youngster to express a desire to leave.
Liverpool and Spurs were the most likely destinations for the former City man, but the Reds won his signature just after the January window opened. With manager Brendan Rodgers giving Sturridge his preferred central striker role with Luis Suarez playing behind him, the youngster was free at last to display his talent. His abilities coupled with Suarez’s skill on the ball gave Liverpool a whole new dimension to their game.
It took him just 7 minutes to score his first goal in a Reds shirt when he made his debut in the FA Cup clash against Mansfield Town. He followed that up with a goal against bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. His purple patch would ensure that he would score in a 5-0 demolition of Norwich City at Anfield making him the first player since Ray Kennedy to score in his first three games for Liverpool.
He is at times accused of taking the wrong option and being too selfish. But in Daniel Sturridge’s case, the positives triumph the negatives and his success at Liverpool has only made Chelsea standup and take notice of him.
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