When picked as a striker, the player chosen must perform that role. That’s what Gareth Southgate would have been hoping for when he picked Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge to lead the line for England against Malta on Saturday. Yet, the 27-year-old often drifted wide taking up the space of others and failing to occupy the centre-backs.
An article in The Daily Mail displays Sturridge’s touch map, perfectly backing up the point that the Liverpool striker went missing for periods of the game. He had nine touches inside the penalty area against the world’s 176th ranked international team. For a striker of Sturridge’s class, this is not enough. In comparison, the Liverpool striker touched the ball 15 times on the right-hand side, an area where a solo striker in Southgate’s 4-2-3-1 experiment has little impact.
For the Liverpool striker to be effective playing his own style, England need to remove the number 10 from the formation and revert to a classical 4-4-2, something unlikely to happen given the FA’s love for playmakers ‘in the hole’.
Yet, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, Sturridge, who rated a 7/10 in The Daily Mail’s post-match review, managed to score a stunning header to give England the lead. The former Chelsea man is excellent at reminding everyone of his class and potency, right when people begin to question why he is starting.
However, the glancing header at Wembley is the only goal Sturridge has to his name this season. For his club, he hasn’t scored and has either been subbed on or off in every one of his 6 appearances.
His single Squawka award for ‘Worst man in the team’ is exemplary of his season, not good enough. For a striker that flourished as Liverpool came within an inch of the title, and one who is ‘one of greatest Liverpool have ever had’ according to Jamie Carragher, to have no goals in 6 appearances is shoddy.
Yet, the problem doesn’t seem to be his lack of effort. Sturridge has had 14 attempts on goal, 5 on target, 6 off, 3 blocked. A striker short of confidence doesn’t have 14 efforts to his name in 292 minutes of football. He has always had a strong self-belief, yet it appears his discipline may have faded slightly.
In the England game, Sturridge portrayed carelessness when deciding when to drift and when to occupy the defenders. In games where he is in a side that are expected to win, staying central and moving the centre backs is the primary concern.
In the league, the Liverpool man has shown where he is most deadly. His movement to split Leicester’s defence for Firmino’s goal shows what he can do when the defensive line is high. For his club, he has been a substitute for 50% of his appearances with Roberto Firmino occupying a false nine role, a position which would suit Sturridge.
Jurgen Klopp seems keen to keep the front three of Mane, Firmino and Coutinho as all three work hard, while also having complementary qualities and a high technical ability.
The decision to start Firmino has been put down to the Brazilian’s work ethic by many fans, while the former Hoffenheim man has also been in fine form this season. In the style Klopp likes to play, playing Firmino makes much more sense as the Brazilian is willing to figurehead the higher defensive press.
Sturridge, on the other hand, adopts a typical striker’s attitude; defending is not for him. This is shown perfectly in the fact that the England international has only made one interception, with no other defensive actions to his name, in six games. In comparison to his first team rival, Firmino has intercepted four passes as a striker and made two blocks, while also having scored three goals.
Sturridge’s underwhelming performances have led to ex-professionals offering their advice. Chris Sutton writes that Sturridge ‘needs to take responsibility as a No. 9 and offer the threat that a centre-forward should offer.’
Jamie Carragher has suggested that the England striker, who gained the accolade of scoring 100 goals for club and country with his header against Malta, should look at Firmino’s game. The former Liverpool star said: ‘So maybe Daniel has to look at that [what Firmino is doing differently to him] and think where he can improve to get back into the team.’
When England face Slovenia, Sturridge may be on the bench as Southgate uses his whole squad, yet for a striker in the prime of his career at 27-years-old, he will naturally be keen to play every minute for both club and country. Adding more discipline to his game and re-adjusting his style to suit the needs of the team may just revitalise his stuttering season.
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