Ahead of England's friendly match against Sweden on Wednesday, striker Daniel Sturridge spoke to the press about his lack of playing time at Stamford Bridge. He stated that if he was given the chance by Di Matteo, he would score 20 goals a season. Sturridge fell out of favour with Di Matteo after the sacking of Andre Villas Boas, with Di Matteo seeing Sturridge's reluctance to track back, as a big issue. Di Matteo preferred to put Kalou in that position, due to the defensive qualities he had and Sturridge clearly lacks. One of the big failings of the infamous AVB high line was that Sturridge was deployed on the left or right wing, which would leave Chelsea's fullbacks open to one on one situations. This lead to many goals being conceded from Chelsea's wings, and Sturridge was dropped as soon as Di Matteo took over.
Sturridge scored 13 times last season for Chelsea, coming from 40 starts, with the majority of those coming under AVB. When Di Matteo became the manager, it became very clear that Sturridge wasn't in his first team plans, with Sturridge picked to play games in a team that would be seen as the second team at the time. It was a dramatic season for Sturridge, especially considering that this was the first full season that Danny was in contention for starting places regularly, having performed so well at Bolton Wanderers whilst on loan, with 8 goals in just 12 appearances.
Sturridge has always said that he sees his future for not only Chelsea, but England, playing up top and not as a winger. The problem for Sturridge at Chelsea, is that he's competing for a place with a player who cost the club £50 million, and was very much a personal buy by Roman Abramovich. During times this season it's seemed as if Torres could have a poor game and still be guaranteed to start the next week. Sturridge was unlucky to get a hamstring injury towards the beginning of the season, which kept him out of contention for a few weeks, but even when he's been available his services have only been required as a substitute or in the Capital One Cup.
It does seem that Sturridge will never get a real run of games to show what he can do, especially with Chelsea competing for the title, added to the fact that Oscar & Eden Hazard were bought in the summer with the main aim of helping Fernando Torres to score. But it seems that this issue isn't solely limited to Sturridge. Another England striker, Danny Welbeck at Manchester United, posted figures of 12 goals in 40 appearances, 1 less than Sturridge. With Van Persie's arrival at Old Trafford this season, Welbeck's seen his chances limited also, with a record of just 1 goal in 12 appearances, similar to Sturridge's stats of 2 goals in 9 appearances.
So what does the future hold for Sturridge? Will he get a chance to regularly show what he can do for Chelsea? My guess is not. The only way I can see Sturridge being given the chance to start a string of 4 or 5 games in the Premier League, would unfortunately only come if Torres was to get injured. Until that happens, Sturridge will just have to play second fiddle to the Spaniard and try to take full advantage of any opportunity that comes his way. With Lukaku still yet to come back from his loan spell at West Brom, it could see Sturridge's chances limited even further. Plus with Lukaku costing Chelsea big money, you would bet that Chelsea would be more willing to make Lukaku a success than Sturridge.
As an Englishman, it is a shame to see Sturridge's chances limited so much, and a transfer to a club like Liverpool seems to be the only way that Sturridge will get regular playing time. Brendan Rodgers was rumoured to be interested in Sturridge during the summer, with Chelsea's asking price being a stumbling block. But now with Liverpool seeminly struggling to score goals, and with limited attacking options, Sturridge could be seen as a perfect signing for Liverpool. Plus with Chelsea perhaps looking to fund a move for Falcao, the income brought in from Sturridge's sale could help this.
As a player, Sturridge has a lot of potential, and could still go on to play a big part in Chelsea's future, but there are doubts from without football. With his poor decision making in key situations, selfishness, and reluctance to track back and help the team in defence, there are many negatives to Sturridge's play. But, with time and coaching, these are traits that can be wiped out of Danny's game and make him a real asset for club and country. He undoubtedly has the ability, as shown with some of his goals last season, but he just needs to learn. At the age of 23, he's still a very young player, and it's a big responsibility for any striker to play up front on their own, especially when that team are the European Champions. With the Christmas period coming up, and the games coming thick and fast for Chelsea, maybe Sturridge will get more chances to see what he can. If he can perform the tasks required and score the goals that help Chelsea win games, he could provide quite the selection headache for Di Matteo. It could also end up saving Chelsea the best part of £50 million in January.
Will Talbut - @WSTalbs