January is upon us and as many of us vow to shed a few pounds football managers across the country are preparing to do the same as the winter transfer window creaks open once more. Messrs Ferguson and Wenger have given us the annual rhetoric that ‘January is not the right time to buy’ but in spite of that wheeler dealers (as Harry would not like to be called) across the land will be looking to dip into their pockets in the vain hope of improving their on-field fortunes.
So far this year the man at the centre of the highest profile move is England’s Daniel Sturridge after securing a switch from Chelsea to Liverpool for a reported £12m. Certainly not everybody’s cup of tea, Sturridge is a divisive figure at the best of times, undoubtedly talented but seems hamstrung by his own highly inflated view of himself. Is he really the man Brendan Rodgers should be putting his faith in as he continues his Anfield revolution? And as Demba Ba eases his way into Sturridge’s locker space at Colney should Rodgers have waivered from his English-first policy and secured the Senegalese’s services for himself?
Sturridge, nephew of the ex-Wolves striker Dean, began his professional career with Manchester City where he enjoyed an impressive run becoming the first player to score in the Youth FA Cup, FA Cup and Premier League in the same season in 2007/08. A year later after rumours of a difference of opinion on salary, Sturridge allowed his contract to expire and signed for Chelsea subject to a fee set by tribunal. After a hit and miss time in his early Blues career Sturridge enjoyed his most prolific spell while on loan at Bolton registering 8 goals in just 13 appearances. His return to Chelsea saw him once again on the periphery and under both Roberto Di Matteo and latterly Rafa Benitez his appearances in the first team were limited to cameo’s from the substitutes bench.
Sturridge arrives at Liverpool at a time of flux. Rodgers has his side playing an attractive brand of continental style passing and possession but results are not necessarily coming in the frequency the Northern Irishman would have hoped for when appointed in June. The Reds sit eighth but despite that perhaps being an acceptable return at the halfway point, the bulk of those 21 points have come on the back of the exceptional form of the mercurial Luis Suarez.
The controversial Uruguayan has been the heart and soul of the Reds this season netting 15 goals in the league – a personal best – leading him to be viewed in numerous journalistic and spectator circles as the best player of the 2012/13 campaign.
So it seems a perplexing decision for Rodgers to suggest in the media this week that Suarez will be shifted deeper to accommodate the arrival of Sturridge. Rodgers believes that Suarez’s time in the no.10 role while at Ajax will help serve the greater good for his side with Sturridge deployed in his favoured central striking position. It would be a bold move to move your best player to accommodate a new signing but to move him for Sturridge could create a rod for his own back should the latter’s move not go as planned.
Sturridge has never been prolific even in his earlier days and despite considerable ability he is no Luis Suarez. Many interested onlookers have suggested that if Sturridge is half the player he thinks he is then Liverpool will have quite the signing. This hints at what seems his biggest problem – Sturridge carries himself, and always has done, with the air of a man who has spent his entire career being told he is the best player on the field, a player who consistently believes his own hype and has consequentially become a victim of it. He plays in the manner of an 18-year-old in a 23-year-old’s body too often seeking personal glory over team success.
This type of footballer – a footballer who has already been deemed surplus by two separate clubs higher on the Premier League food chain before the age of 23 – is not what Rodgers needs. He needs intelligent footballers who can take his progressive philosophy on board. Sturridge is not that player.
At still only 23 Sturridge has a potential upside and a sell-on value which will appeal in the boardroom but for a club and manager in need of progress immediately another high-profile transfer blunder is the last thing they need. A combined £75m was spent (wasted) on the underperforming triumvirate of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing. It is far from me to write off Sturridge as a fourth just days into his Anfield career but a lower risk and more trustworthy Demba Ba-shaped option would surely have been better for both Liverpool and Rodgers in this new era.
By Ben Burrows
Ben is a Premier League expert and a TFM Pundit who writes for Eurosport, ITV and The League Paper.