Daniel Sturridge has scored six goals so far this season, two in World Cup qualifiers, four in the EFL Cup. That tells the story of his strange situation, one that is unfortunately not unusual for English players: vital for the national team, but not especially important to his club side.
The fact that Sturridge has only started four of Liverpool’s 11 Premier League games this season shows what Jurgen Klopp thinks about his skills and his effect on the team. Gareth Southgate clearly feels differently, though, starting Sturridge up front for all three of the Group F games of his tenure so far.
Sturridge started at Wembley against Scotland on Friday evening even though Southgate could have picked Harry Kane, his old centre-forward from the England Under-21 team, back fit again after seven weeks out with an ankle injury. He rewarded Southgate with an instinctive headed goal to put England ahead, a vital goal in disrupting Scotland’s plan to turn the home crowd.
It certainly must make a pleasant change for the situation Sturridge finds himself in at Liverpool. “He’s got a lot of faith in me,” Sturridge said of Southgate. “I’m trying to repay him as best as I can. If I can perform well in the games, that’s important. We have beaten Scotland, that’s a big game and big result for us. It is important for every player to have the manager’s confidence.”
With Sturridge there is always a but, a feeling that he is not quite making the most of brilliant talents, both technical and physical. There is the issue of injuries, the fact that almost 10 years on from his senior debut, he has only managed to start half of his team’s Premier League game in two seasons, 2011-12 at Chelsea, 2013-14 at Liverpool. That was the problem last year, but this year he is fit and the problem is slightly different: Klopp simply thinks that Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho is his best front three.
Klopp is measured in what he says about Sturridge in public, but there has been criticism of him recently from those who think he does not do enough for the team. Sturridge is not afraid of speaking out when he has an opinion and he made very clear what he thinks of that critique. “I’m not worried about what other people say about me,” he said. So is that particular point fair? “It’s unfair. It’s unfair. I feel that I contribute to the team. I assist, I score goals. It doesn’t matter what people say about me.”
England vs Scotland player ratings
England vs Scotland player ratings
1/22 Joe Hart – 6 out of 10
Dealt with everything that came his way, though the few Scottish efforts that reached him were either mistimed or weak.
2/22 Kyle Walker – 8 out of 10
England’s best player in the first half. He threatened the Scots time and again with direct dashes down the right flank. Deserved his assist.
3/22 Gary Cahill – 5 out of 10
As the most experienced member of England’s backline, could have marshalled his men much better, especially right after the break. Still, scored the third with a header.
4/22 John Stones – 6 out of 10
The odd moment of hesitation and indecision undermined a largely sound display. Guilty of dropping too deep and inviting pressure at times.
5/22 Danny Rose – 7 out of 10
Not initially as impressive as Walker on the opposite wing, but came alive after the break and earned his assist for Lallana’s goal.
6/22 Eric Dier – 7 out of 10
Looks more and more like his country’s most accomplished midfielder. Not a special night, but he did the simple things well.
7/22 Jordan Henderson – 5 out of 10
Has his deeper role at Anfield inhibited him? Offered little going forward when, alongside Dier, he had license to run and get creative.
8/22 Wayne Rooney – 6 out of 10
An improvement on recent displays for his country but it remains hard to see where he fits in. His selection is always predicated on his world class talent, but it feels so long since we’ve seen it.
9/22 Adam Lallana – 8 out of 10
Brought all the dynamism and work ethic he has shown recently for Liverpool and was rewarded with his second goal at international level.
10/22 Raheem Sterling – 8 out of 10
Often bruised and battered, but kept bravely running at Scotland’s deep defence, and England’s fan finally seem to be on his side. Less said about the sitter, the better.
11/22 Daniel Sturridge – 8 out of 10
Maintained his recent good record when playing under Wembley’s arch. His flicked header was his fourth goal in his last six starts here.
12/22 Craig Gordon – 4 out of 10
Beaten too easily for each of England’s goals – particularly Lallana’s, where his positioning was particularly questionable.
13/22 Ikechi Anya – 5 out of 10
Did not trouble England down the flank as often as he could have, potentially because of his side’s conservative tactics.
14/22 Christophe Berra – 4 out of 10
Struggled with Sturridge’s movement, especially when he had Lallana and Sterling to contend with too. A poor display.
15/22 Grant Hanley – 5 out of 10
Should have punished England when presented with a free header off a corner in the first half. Slightly more competent at the back than his partner.
16/22 Lee Wallace – 7 out of 10
One of Scotland’s more impressive performers, he made sure Sterling knew he was there on more than one occasion.
17/22 Darren Fletcher – 6 out of 10
A willing but often unable presence in Scotland’s midfield. In his pomp, would surely have had his old team-mate Rooney under wraps.
18/22 James Forrest – 5 out of 10
Lacked a cool head when Gordon Strachan needed one and spurned Scotland’s best chance of the match.
19/22 Scott Brown – 4 out of 10
The subject of much debate after returning to the side, but this performance did nothing to hurt Charlie Adam’s claim to his place.
20/22 James Morrison – 4 out of 10
When he wasn’t wasteful in possession, he was inadequately attempting to stop England bypass Scotland’s first line of defence. Hooked in the second half.
21/22 Robert Snodgrass – 5 out of 10
Another one guilty of wasting chances when they fell to him. One of the few in Strachan’s side who can invent something, but failed to show that tonight.
22/22 Leigh Griffiths – 6 out of 10
Offered bright, intelligent play and harried England’s fallible centre-halves but no avail. Should’ve done better when played through by a white shirt in the first half.
In this England team, Sturridge has an important role to play leading the line and creating the space for the imaginative players. Southgate plays a narrow 4-2-3-1 with Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana all behind him, and if Sturridge were to drop off too there would be no room for anyone else. So England need Sturridge, as far as possible, to run off the shoulder, worry the defenders, force them back, creating space for others.
“If I’m coming short to get involved in the game, then there is nobody up front in the centre forward position,” Sturridge explained. “It is important for the team to have a focal point. If I drop deep and get on the ball, then there is nobody up front. That is where I need to be. I need to be threatening the centre-halves, pushing them and creating space for other people. That’s why we have a No 10 and [on Friday] it was Rooney. I need to make space for him. If I drop deep it cramps his style a bit. It’s about positional awareness.”
The problem for Sturridge is that this sounds like a very good description of what Harry Kane does for Tottenham. He is the lone striker in Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1, and excels about the selfless work for the good of his team, as well as the penalty box poaching which has always been Sturridge’s strength. Kane will not be involved against Spain on Tuesday night, as he continues to return to full fitness. Sturridge, then, is likely to start up front again.
There is no international football again until March, when England play a friendly in Germany and a home qualifier against Lithuania. By then, though, it is difficult to see how Sturridge, not playing for Liverpool, would start ahead of Kane, presuming he is fit again. Not that Sturridge wanted to discuss the possibility in detail. “It is down to the manager to choose the team.”Reuse content