Brendan Rodgers has somewhat surprisingly chosen a public arena in which to question Daniel Sturridge, whom he clearly feels needs a change of attitude despite his last-gasp heroics in the Merseyside derby.
Sturridge arrived as a 79th-minute substitute and earned Liverpool a point with his late header at Everton, yet Rodgers shed light on why the player did not start the derby, per Dominic King of the Daily Mail:
It is very simple for me. 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.
John Flanagan was immense, a young kid from the city. He has played in a derby that will be shown on Sky Golden in 30 years because of his desire and will to be out there every day.
If you don’t do that, there is a consequence — you don’t play. If you want to be a champion, you have to be ready. For this game, I just felt Daniel wasn’t ready.
Rodgers has clearly been irked by the fact that Sturridge was able to complete 90 minutes for England against Germany on Tuesday, yet wasn’t willing—or able—to put in 100 percent in training three days later.
David Maddock of the Daily Mirror provides further quotes:
All I can do is look and assess who will give me absolutely everything when they go out on the field.
There is a trend. There are maybe some games when he hasn’t played well and that has happened on the back of not training.
I have got to make a call. Do I put him in again? I know the games in which he has been very good. The games he has disappointed in have come when he hasn’t trained.
The consequences of Rodgers’ comments will be fascinating. By going public about Sturridge, he clearly hopes he can inspire the free-scoring forward to improve his attitude and become an even greater talent.
However, he risks the possibility of losing the trust of one of his top talents.
In Sturridge’s defence, he has been struggling with a dead leg for several weeks. Rodgers confessed as much in his pre-game press conference, per ESPN.
Under such circumstances, if he is asked to complete 90 minutes for England, but genuinely feels he cannot train three days later, Sturridge might feel he has acted in acceptable manner.
To question the player, when he is trying to stay fit for club and country, invites the potential for a major fallout at a time when Liverpool are challenging for honours—second in the table.
However, to the neutral observer it does appear at times that Sturridge could give more for the Liverpool cause than his goals alone.
He went missing in the 1-0 home defeat to Southampton, failing to register a shot on target according to Squawka, and he was an infuriating figure again days later in the 1-0 Carling Cup loss to Manchester United.
At Newcastle, a game that came four days after England beat Poland, he scored the equaliser in a 2-2 draw but did not contribute much else across the 90 minutes—despite Liverpool playing against 10 men. And there was more of the same when the Reds were beaten by Arsenal.
Sturridge undoubtedly has huge talent and continues to score vital goals for Liverpool this season. He now has 11 in all competitions, and his goals have directly contributed to 12 points this term.
Rodgers will feel he has been fair with the England man, offering unbridled praise on occasion. James Nursey of the Mirror quotes the Liverpool boss—speaking back in August—tipping Sturridge to become “world class.”
However, in order to reach that world-class level, Sturridge needs to develop the same enthusiasm shown by strike partner Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan played in a World Cup qualifier at 11pm GMT on Wednesday before flying from the other side of the world to return on Thursday. He then turned in a star performance less than 48 hours later in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw.
Sturridge's reaction, in Liverpool's next game away at Hull, will say much about his relationship with his manager.