Despite scoring the equalising goal against bitter rivals Everton, Daniel Sturridge was on the receiving end of a lambasting from Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who accused the forward of lacking the courage and loyalty to Liverpool's title challenge. Rodgers was referring to the injury Sturridge picked up during his match with England which forced him to miss 79 of the 90 minutes against Everton.
The criticism may seem incredibly harsh especially considering Sturridge headered in the equalising goal, however when you contrast Sturridge's situation with Luis Suarez you bring to see Rodger's point.
Unlike Sturridge who played one international fixture, a friendly against Germany, Suarez had played two 90 minute matches, a competitive play off against Jordan. As a testament to his dedication to Liverpool's title bid, Suarez took a private jet straight back to England so he could arrive by Thursday ready to train, instead of arriving Thursday night, without time to train for the match.
Fast forward to Saturday and despite the two players carrying niggling injuries only one started. Indeed despite being in obvious pain and then taking a whacking from Mirallas (top left), Suarez continued to give 110% for the duration of the match, Sturridge succumbed to his injury and watched the majority from the bench before scoring the equaliser.
In the aftermath of the match Rodgers had this to say:
"I am looking at him in training on Friday and he is not right. Whose responsibility is that? It is the association, the player. All I can do is look and assess who will give me absolutely everything when they go out on the field."
"We have a game against a massive rival away from home. I need everyone as close to 100 per cent as I possibly can. He is clearly not. A lot of players, especially the top ones, are never 100 per cent fit."
"Suárez will never have been 100 per cent in his time here. Different personalities, different types."
"Daniel has been a match winner for us throughout his time here but I didn’t feel, because of that level of fitness, he was going to be that for us. I have seen it before. There is a trend."
"There are some games when he hasn’t played well and that has happened on the back of not training. With any player, you have to put yourself on the training field. If you do that, you will be in with a chance of playing."
*Quotation from The Telegraph
The difference between Cristiano Ronaldo and fellow countrymen Ricardo Quaresma and Nani is application. Whereas Quaresma and Nani bear much resemblance to how they played when they were teenagers and also in physicality, Ronaldo is simply unrecognisable. Long gone are the days of the mazy runs that lead to dead-ends, the over-usage of step-overs and the theatrical diving. These days Ronaldo does not have to run so much as he can smash shots from 40 yards out. Furthermore, he does not need to over-elaborate on tricks, he simply palms the ball to someone else and gets into position to make good use of his finishing and he has no need to dive as he is so bulky defenders tend to bounce off him.
Apart from pace and two good feet, all of Ronaldo's skill-set are not natural, they were learnt on the training pitch. Considering Rodgers mentioned there was a trend between Sturridge not training and a poor performance, he would do well to heed Rodgers words and fellow the examples of Cristiano Ronaldo and indeed Luis Suarez.
On the flip side could Rodgers be overreacting? Sturridge wanted to play for England and was unfortunate in picking up an injury. Had he risked himself playing a full game against Everton, it is plausible in such a high octane match he would have aggravated the injury further, ruining his good form so far and jeopardising his place in the World Cup - you only have to look at Lionel Messi to see where overplaying can lead to. The fact Sturridge scored in only 11 minutes suggests he is an important asset to Liverpool and should be wrapped in cotton wool.
While that is a great argument, from the perspective of Rodgers, Sturridge's current malaise when the slightest injury comes along may have costed Liverpool the victory and if it continues to hinder Sturridge, it may manifest into different facets of his game. By all means it is better to remove the fear factor and go out there giving it your best, than it is to withdraw your services until you are 100%, because it is just like Rodgers stated: "a lot of players, especially the top ones, are never 100% fit."