Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum suggested prior to last night’s defeat that team-mate Daniel Sturridge deserves a call-up to the England squad, but is the in-form Englishman really a risk worth taking?
Sturridge, who has scored in recent matches against PSG and Chelsea, on two separate occasions, already has 4 goals this season, more than he managed in the whole of the 2017/18 campaign. After being seemingly shunned by manager Jurgen Klopp and sent out on a miserable loan spell at West Brom earlier this year, the striker looks well on his way to recapturing the devastating form he once showed alongside the likes of Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling. And, with England manager Gareth Southgate potentially looking to experiment with his squad after the heroics of this summer’s World Cup, the upcoming UEFA Nations League fixtures against Croatia and Spain seem like the ideal opportunity to reintroduce Sturridge to the national side for the first time in almost a year.
All the signs seem to suggest that an England comeback now for Sturridge would make perfect sense. He is currently outscoring the mercurial Mohammed Salah at Liverpool, a statistic that reinforces just how remarkable his upturn in fortunes has been since returning to the club. With Jamie Vardy’s decision to retire from international football, the England squad is in need of another back-up striker to talisman Harry Kane, with Marcus Rashford of Manchester United the only other real standout candidate. Where Sturridge trumps his counterpart, though, is in experience, having earned his first cap in 2011. At 29, he would provide a degree of seniority in a predominantly youthful squad. He has also shown on previous occasions that he can perform for England when it counts, with goals at both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros respectively. With the Three Lions in need of a victory after their opening loss to Spain, Sturridge may well be able to conjure up something special once more.
However, Sturridge’s injury woes are well-documented, a case in point being the meagre 6 appearances he managed for West Brom in the second half of last season. Although his recent form is encouraging, it seems as though Sturridge is consistently on the cusp of regaining his clinical finishing, only to be side-lined a further time. There is the argument, in terms of his prospects at Liverpool, that team-mate Roberto Firmino is a better all-round player, who has been performing well for the Reds for an extended period of time now. His early season form, although not terrible, hasn’t been as explosive as Sturridge’s, but this can be attributed to his exploits in Russia over the summer, so the opportunities afforded to the Englishman will likely reduce as he returns to full fitness.
Overall, when Gareth Southgate announces his squad today, it would be somewhat satisfying to see a player who has endured such hardship over the past few seasons once more have the chance to add to his 8 international goals. Daniel Sturridge offers something different to alternative options currently available, and it would be foolish to not take advantage of his qualities whilst he remains fully fit. Having an individual in this rich vein of form to bring off the bench against tired legs would be an undoubted luxury. If nothing else, his trademark celebration should be persuasive enough. In my view, the decision isn’t up for debate – Sturridge should be picked for England again.