Daniel Sturridge has rejected claims a lack of work rate has seen him drop down the pecking order up front for Liverpool.
Sturridge netted the first goal in England’s 3-0 victory over Scotland on Friday night, his sixth of the campaign for club and country.
However, while he is scoring at a rate of one every 120 minutes, Sturridge is yet to hit a Premier League goal in 2016/17, having fallen behind Roberto Firmino as Jurgen Klopp‘s No. 9.
This, according to his critics, including former Reds midfielder Graeme Souness, is due to his perceived laziness on the pitch.
But speaking after the win over Scotland at Wembley Stadium, Sturridge insisted this was “unfair.”
“It’s unfair. I feel that I contribute to the team. I assist, I score goals,” he argued.
“It doesn’t matter what people say about me. Goals are what I enjoy doing, of course. But as long as the team wins, that is all that matters and that you are part of that result.
“You take the confidence and move forward. I want to score, but the team result matters the most.”
It is the team effort that, for England, Sturridge feels is jarring with his game, not the other way around.
And having been seen to admonish his Liverpool team-mates at times for failing to play a pass to meet his intelligent diagonal runs, this could be translated to club level, too.
“I feel that if I’m coming short to get involved in the game, then there is nobody up front in the centre-forward position and it is important for the team to have a focal point,” he added.
“If I drop deep and get on the ball, do skills and take people on, then there is nobody up front and that is where I need to be.
“I need to be between the lines, threatening the centre-halves, pushing them and creating space for other people.
“That’s why we have a No. 10 and it was Wazza [against Scotland]. I need to make space for him.
“If I drop deep it cramps his style a bit. It’s about positional awareness.”
This certainly shows Sturridge understands his positioning as an off-shoulder No. 9, and it was clear at Wembley that Wayne Rooney’s abject positioning was affecting England’s buildup play.
However, the point remains that Firmino has been more effective for Liverpool this season; and while Sturridge is right to refute criticism of his work rate, this may highlight a bigger problem for him.