Daniel Sturridge and the pitfalls of genius

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‘Of course it is more difficult for me to play wide. I’m a centre-forward. In the modern day game you have to try and be flexible but everyone knows my best position. Everyone knows where I enjoy playing the most. I’m a player who plays on instinct, and in the middle I have clarity on movements and things that I have been doing for years. I am on autopilot there. You just do things because you are used to doing it. But when you are out wide, you have got to worry about different things. It’s just a different way. The way you move, the way you play – it is all different. You can’t play the same as you do as a centre-forward.’

And there it is. The quote that sparked a myriad of pieces on Daniel Sturridge’s attitude, fitness and ability to fit into Jurgen Klopp’s preferred system of playing Roberto Firmino as a central striker with Sturridge coming in from wide. To me that whole brouhaha could be characterised as a headline of ‘Man Answers Question Honestly.’

The most interesting word in that quote is ‘autopilot’. Daniel Sturridge plays on instincts. Give him a ball ten yards out and he’ll find a corner. Give it to him with his back to goal and often as not he’ll find a way to hurt you. On the other hand, put him in front of a full back coming in from the side and he’s facing a whole host of problems – ones that he’s not used to right now and that’s his point. He’s not used to playing there. That’s what he said.

For some reason this is grounds to castigate him. ‘He doesn’t press enough,’ ‘he’s lazy,’ ‘he doesn’t fit into Klopp’s preferred system’ and such guff. We’re all forgetting one important thing about Daniel Sturridge.

It is this.

He’s fucking brilliant.

Absolutely fucking brilliant.

We all know that really but it gets lost in the clamour to zealously agree with the manager – as if it’s a permanent position he’s been asked to play.

I like Roberto Firmino. I really do. Mostly because he mystifies me. I don’t know if he’s a striker or a 10 or even a wide man in a three behind the striker but there’s something good about him. I’m yet to see him shine for 90 consecutive minutes but I love any player who goes quiet and suddenly changes the game.

But put any player in the Liverpool squad in Sturridge’s boots against Seville and tell him to do what he did in that glorious first half second and see how far you get. They’re all talented but that goal was more than that. It was – his word – instinct. It was magic dust. It was impudence. It was genius. And, importantly, it’s rare in any player. Oh, so rare.

Yet there seems to be a quality about Daniel that people don’t like. Ian Wright recently said that he should learn to smile more on the pitch as it will improve his body language. What arse gravy that is! Sturridge can walk around with a tittylip for the rest of his life as long as he’s scoring regularly for the Reds. And what, pray, would the outcome be if he was playing in a position which he had yet to master, was unhappy but smiled his face off throughout. Then he would be accused of doing it for the money and simply running down the contract.

An angry Sturridge, or at least a disappointed one, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He learns quickly and loves playing football so would change accordingly. Look at his performance when he came back from his injury in 2015 as a sub against West Ham. He ran every ball down, harried defenders and generally worked his arse off. The result? It took him just twelve minutes to score a goal. Twelve whole minutes.

Many think he has an attitude problem but that’s far from the case. Sturridge grew up in Birmingham where gangs roamed the streets. He wanted nothing to do with that culture and this quote reveals a lot about his character.

Why closed-off? I think it is down to childhood. When you grow up in certain environments, you can’t be too loud or too open because you can be exposed to things you don’t want to be exposed to.”

In other words, keep your head down and work hard. Don’t go looking for trouble. Don’t get above yourself.

So much of that resonates with the Liverpool culture too. There’s a famous story of Jamie Carragher being lambasted by his mates when he took out his wallet after a meal. They had no problem with him paying for them but, to them, a wallet was a bit posh. A bit wool. Showing off.

Sturridge has clearly has had a similar upbringing, but backs himself in terms of his ability. He’s no shrinking violet as this reply when asked if he was nervous when about to face Mats Hummels testifies.

“I’m at his level, so I don’t look at him as anyone who’s bigger than me or better than me or I’m in awe. 

“Not at all. He’s the same as me. We face players at the top level in the Premier League – it’s the best league in the world.”

He’s right too. He believes his skill is God given and works hard at it. So what if he doesn’t Jimmy Bullard his way through the game, Ian? So what if doesn’t make out it’s a panto? He’s got a League to win and he’s going to be disappointed if he doesn’t get to help in that endeavour.

It’s important to remember in that opening quote that he expressed a preference, not a demand. He’s not complaining. Just answering a question.

The number of world class players is finite and we certainly have one in Daniel Sturridge. He is neither lazy nor grumpy. He’s just a brilliant footballer trying to work around a system that will bring rewards to Liverpool Football Club and surely that’s what we all want.

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  1. Love Daniel Sturridge !very good write up . He could produce amazing goals always has been, have total faith in him ! Have been through a lot the scars did not heal completely he must look forward and quickly too! YNWA❤️❤️❤️❤️ Am a grandma smell a good lad from afar he needs to BELIEVE ! XX❤️

  2. Good Article,

    As someone who knows his family he’s very protective of his privacy.
    Some sites have gone overboard with the comments they make to the point of insult him.
    Rumour and conjecture are the problem unless you know the person I say stay clear of personalised insults or insinuations.
    He is our best striker at the moment in terms of chance to goals conversions (if your into stats).
    I’d love to know to those fans who’d they want to replace him with better stats thats realistic?

  3. I’m surprised this is so difficult for many to get their heads around

    Sturridge doesn’t move – he doesn’t make space or drag defenders around for the team, it’s just about him. So he usually starts centrally but often moves out wide which then means we have the wide player’s space being taken by Sturridge so their fullback can cover 2 players. Their central defenders just need to mark anybody who comes form midfield into the box

    What then – Sturridge gets the ball usually quite wide and has all their defenders in front of him. I do get it, he is fucking brilliant, I agree; but the quick play has all but stopped, our wide players are have no space and so it’s just whether his brilliance will lead to a goal – we know his ratio is some 0.6 goals per game – brilliant

    0.6 goals per game is good but not when it detracts from other players scoring because he is messing with the other players’ positions and slowing down the game – dont forget we wanted Klopp and his style is not to slow down the game and rely on one brilliant but always fucking injured player!

    So Klopp thinks when he starts wide he occupies their full back when we ont have the ball, Bobby is superb at making space – he goes deeper to link and drags a central defender out of line which leaves the gap for Studge to ghost in. Central defender out of position, their full back caught in 2 minds and Strurridge is in the centre when we have the ball

    He is only being asked to drop wide when we dont have the ball !!

    It’s the same as the holding midfielder – the centre backs push up and wide when we have the ball – do we think our holding player is going to complain that he is now a central defender

    Just because Sturridge likes playing centrally because he doesn’t have to think doesn’t mean he’s doing right for the team – nobody is asking him to become a winger but some people really dont seem to be able to grasp this movement concept

    If we pander to Sturridge we ruin Klopp’s game plan and I would rather put my trust in Klopp than a supremely talented striker who is often out injured and wants to play where he doesn’t need to think what is best for the team

    I read the article and couldn’t beleive the lack of critical thinking – I guess some people cannot grasp team patterns.

    I mean Origi is better to run the channels than Sturridge so why on earth would he want Sturridge to be a winger. He wants Sturridge’s talent to be in front of goal when the final ball comes through – not to have Sturridge in front of a masssed defence showing that he can score every 2 games – We became top scorers this calendar year with Sturridge on the treatment table but some would sacfice that to allow Sturridge to enjoy himself and reduce the options for others. Surely the team comes first?

    Very simplistic understanding of the game from the author in my opinion

  4. I don’t feel the english media give adequate judgment on sturridge’s abilities, to much emphasis on goal to game ratio. But what they don’t talk about is he loses possession often, he kills of attack momentum most time,
    Strikers are selfish but sturridge goes up one notch, you would see him pass forward to another player except side-ward out of a danger area just for him to get into the box even when the best decision would have been to pass it into the box for another player there
    His Issue is a matter I just don’t like talking much over.


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