It’s been a troublesome year for England’s hottest hitman, but finally Daniel Sturridge is back from injury and helping Liverpool fight to save their season. A goal on his return against West Ham, a tidy strike against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup and a neat header against Burnley would suggest he’s off to a decent start, however he doesn’t yet look quite the player he was.
A relatively poor showing versus Swansea was only summed up as he sold both the defender and ‘keeper attempting to stop him from scoring in the final minutes, only to hit the post. Since his return, Sturridge has lacked a little in the energy he once bought to the team. Truth be told, he’s certainly not back to full fitness yet, but he’s not far off.
The expectation placed on his shoulders upon his return from a little over six months out injured with not one, not two, but three serious thigh injuries was huge. Liverpool fans everywhere watched a new system come together without a clinical spearhead, thinking the grass would be greener from the moment he was back in the side. Not quite the case.
Now he’s back in the side and playing in second gear. A little off the pace, Sturridge looks a set of cojones short of the player who scored a massive twenty-one goals last year. Short on confidence, and lacking that extra yard of pace to latch onto the Coutinho through balls he’s become so accustomed to, he’s in need of a big goal to get his groove on again.
So here’s Brendan Rodgers’ dilemma: does he start him against Manchester United this Sunday or not? It goes without saying that whether he’s fully fit or strapped to the treatment table, he’s Liverpool’s best out and out striker. Nonetheless, with United hitting their stride, Liverpool will need to be on their A-game if they’re to continue the superb form they currently entertain, and that means everyone playing to the top of their ability. Can Daniel muster up the courage?
There’s no doubt that the ex-Chelsea forward is a major threat to United should he show up ready to cause havoc, but with the Red Devils likely to play a similar stifling system to Swansea – which left Liverpool short in midfield in the first half at the Liberty – it’s possible Sturridge could be left very isolated up top, and it’s vital to their pressing game that he finds it in himself to continue to work high up the pitch even when it feels like he’s chasing lost causes.
On the contrary, of course, the boy’s ability isn’t to be second guessed. Fitness permitting, Sturridge won’t come out hiding in his shell. The stage is set for his explosive pace to expose a relatively shaky United defence, and grab the goal he needs to remind him just how much he loves scoring. Bad form will always come to an end (admittedly Fernando Torres still has his fingers crossed), but that can only happen if you’re playing football regularly.
With the faith that Rodgers has shown in Sturridge, it’s doubtful that he’ll leave the emphatic dancer out of his starting lineup come Sunday afternoon. After all, the boy’s got great character, and failure doesn’t look to be an option to last season’s second top scorer. With a show of determination and a little bit of the rub of the green, we may well see a rejuvenated Daniel Sturridge return to his dancing ways this weekend.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
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