Why the fitness of these Liverpool and Arsenal stars are key to England's Euro chances
Huge talent, Premier League proven and England starlets, the future looked bright for Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshire a few years ago. However, a string of injuries have caused both players’ careers to stall and both face a race against time to make Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad.
When he’s fit and in form, Daniel Sturridge is one of the best strikers in the Premier League. After spells at Man City, Chelsea and a loan spell at Bolton, he started to excel under Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and the Northern Irishman immediately spotted the players potential. He knew his strongest position was as a striker, rather than on the wing and knew that Sturridge needed a regular starting place to flourish. His partnership with Luis Suarez was incredible. Known as SAS, they so nearly fired Liverpool to the title against all odds.
That season now seems like a distant memory to most fans due to Sturridge’s persistent injury trouble. It has culminated in damming headlines like ‘Daniel Sturridge has missed more Liverpool games than he’s played’. I wasn’t at all surprised by that fact. At 26 Sturridge should be entering the prime of his career but multiple injuries to his thigh, ankle ligaments, knee, calf, and hip are really starting to have an impact. His most recent injury setback was to his foot while being on the brink of a return.
For all his talents, Sturridge needs an extended, injury-free run in Jurgn Klopp’s side to put himself back among the league’s top strikers. Klopp and the Kop will both be hoping that happens very soon!
Jack Wilshire is probably the most technically gifted English midfielder of his generation. When he’s fit and playing, he’s one of the elite midfielders in the league. Remember Arsenal’s 1st leg Champions League win against Barcelona in 2011? Wilshire was sensational. At just 19 he stood up to the likes of Xavi and Iniesta in a way that really raised his profile in the game. When one looks back on performances like that it’s such as shame that his career hasn’t been able to progress in any meaningful way.
The reason his career has stalled is simple: 21 injuries in 6 years. Those stats are staggering and they sum up his bad luck. In recent seasons he’s rarely been fit. After recovering from a serious injury last year Wilshire did, however, make a fantastic comeback. He proved his worth and talent with some great goals which helped Arsenal to win the FA Cup for the second year in a row. It looked as though he could finally push to become an Arsenal legend and enjoy an extended period of playing time. That was until he was once again hit with a lengthy lay-off in August. Is he always going to remain injury plagued?
England have been short of world class quality since the so called ‘golden generation’ came to an end. Two players who looked to provide great hope were Sturridge and Wilshire. Young and immensely talented they had the footballing world at their feet, and still do if they can stay free from injury.
To put it simply, England need the quality of Sturridge and Wilshire. We need them to be at their very best in major tournaments. With so many young and exiting prospects across Europe, England need to ensure that former young stars turn potential and promise into strong careers at the top of the game. If we don’t, we stand very little chance of competing at the highest level.
The rise of Tottenham starlets like Harry Kane and Dele Alli make many think that England can cope without Sturridge and Wilshire. I disagree. Without these injury prone players, pace and technical ability are severely lacking in the England starting line-up. The side is technically better and more threatening with Wilshire and Sturridge in the team. That counts for a lot in international tournaments. I think our lack of ability and killer instinct was highlighted by the recent friendly against Spain.
The sad conclusion is that if England are to stand any chance of having a good tournament at this summer’s European Championships then these players need to be starting. If they continue to suffer injury after injury, we will look back on wasted careers. They will be remembered as players who promised so much but delivered comparatively little. And the England side will keep on failing to deliver in major tournament.
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