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Is Sturridge a gamble worth taking for Roy Hodgson?

May 28, 2016

- Grant Whittington

The selection of Roy Hodgson’s England squad has been a major talking point for days now, as fans nationwide react to the manger’s key inclusions and major omissions. Much of the debate has surrounded the composition of England’s midfield, while there has also been great debate concerning the respective roles of forwards Daniel Sturridge and starlet Marcus Rashford.

While Hodgson’s decision to take experienced favourites Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson ahead of the untested Danny Drinkwater was no great surprise however his solution to England’s striker dilemma was a little more unexpected. Rather than choosing between Sturridge and Rashford, he selected both and will head to France with five established forwards.

Why Sturridge is more of a gamble than Rashford

While it may seem like a luxury to take five strikers in a 23-man squad, it is important to consider the flexibility offered by Wayne Rooney and his ability to play deeper in midfield. Even then, many have questioned to take the inexperienced Rashford and the injury-prone Sturridge ahead of players like Andros Townsend, who can at least offer width and something a little different in terms of attacking threat.

Interestingly, however, the selection of Sturridge may ultimately prove to be more of a gamble than that of Rashford. After all, both are unlikely to start in France, meaning that they must be ready and able to make a telling contribution from the bench when the situation arises. While Rashford is ideally-placed to fill this role with his fearlessness, pace and incredible form, doubts remain as to whether Sturridge has the fitness or focus or be relied upon as a substitute.

This was borne out by Sturridge’s worrying cameo at the end of England’s 1-0 win over Portugal last week, when the Liverpool forward looked out of touch and short of pace during his 10 minutes on the pitch. This could be due to the fact that he was only just returning from another niggling lay-off, but the fact remains that his lack of sharpness and vulnerability to muscle injuries hardly makes him a man who can be counted on during the intensity of a major tournament.

Is Sturridge a Gamble worth taking?

With a lack of form and the threat of injury blunting Sturridge’s edge and undermining the confidence of the fans, there is no doubt that his selection is a considerable gamble. It is also potentially damaging to his club career too, especially if he was to suffer a long-term injury during the tournament or see his fitness break down once he had returned home. There is clearly a need for Sturridge to manage his career carefully, so Euro 2016 is undoubtedly a seminal tournament for him.

From Hodgson’s perspective, however, the selection of Sturridge is a gamble worth taking. After all, few players have the natural ability and touch of the mercurial forward, as anyone who saw his stunning, curling strike aganist Sevilla in the Europa League final can testify. While such moments of isolated brilliance are usually not enough to earn selection for a major tournament, Sturridge’s diminished role as a substitute have influenced Hodgson and made his decision far easier.

This also minimises the risk of injury, and may empower Sturridge to play with less fear and more aggression when he does enter the fray. This could well make the difference for England, while it certainly makes Roy’s decision a calculated gamble rather than an unnecessary risk.

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