On January 31 this year there was a big name striker walking through the doors at Chelsea in a record deal that made everyone sit up and take note. On the same day, a young, unaccomplished forward departed in a loan deal which barely registered on the radar on a manic transfer deadline day.
Fast forward nearly three months and while Chelsea’s big money signing, Fernando Torres finally manages to break his duck after 732 minutes of trying for his new club, a certain Daniel Sturridge nets his seventh goal in just nine appearances for his new team. The contrast is unmistakable and the situation something only football can throw up. For Sturridge, he may cast a gleeful eye over to Stamford Bridge as he continues to outshine Chelsea’s £50m megastar, but the bigger picture is that he may just be laying down a marker for what could be a long and fruitful career.
The former Manchester City man’s first half display against Arsenal on Sunday was one of a classy, all-round forward, culminating in a predatory goal to confirm such a stylish performance. To be blunt, Sturridge’s goal was a simple tap-in, but although the finish itself was easy, it was his sharpness in and around the box that gave him the goal. It is a trait that has come to the fore during his time with Bolton as so many of his goals have come from being sharpest to the ball in goalscoring areas and showing his quality to find the net. His goal at St. James Park was a fine example of his sharpness in front of goal, as he picked the ball up 20 yards from goal, controlling the ball and firing it into the bottom corner in one swift movement.
But his sharp eye for goal is not the only threat he carries. The 21-year-old also possesses great pace and some fine trickery which make him a very slippery customer. Far from just being a predator in the box, he will run the channels, has good delivery from wide, and can spot a pass from deep too. His defence splitting pass through to Chung-Yong Lee on Sunday was one of immense quality and he was at the heart of almost all of Bolton’s attacking play in the first 45 minutes.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Sturridge once his loan spell has ended with Bolton. Obvious comparisons can be drawn to Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere who had a successful stint at the Reebok Stadium in the second half of last season, which has helped him develop into an Arsenal regular at such a startling rate. Sturridge has had a similarly successful spell in Lancashire – if not more so – but Chelsea are perhaps less likely than the Gunners to give the youngster a first team role. Arsene Wenger has spent so many years trusting youth, but Chelsea’s success has largely been built on experience and the Blues have had a high squad average for many seasons now.
Competition for forward roles at the Bridge is fierce but Sturridge has shown he has the quality to compete with some of Europe’s finest marksmen in Torres, Didier Drogba, and Nicolas Anelka. He is far too good to be warming the bench and needs to be playing regular Premier League football to further his career. He may well be getting a phone call from Fabio Capello very soon to tell him just that.