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Loan Star Sturridge Must Have Ancelotti Thinking Twice

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There seems to be a universal trait among football managers all over the world: they don’t like to admit that they’re wrong.  An understandable fact when you consider the dog-eat-dog nature of modern day football.  Arsene Wenger will not admit that despite his pathetic cry to Premier League officials earlier this season that his team are not protected from brutish opponents, his side are one of the most ill-disciplined teams in England.  Nor will Alex Ferguson admit that despite his side’s reign at the summit of the Premier League, he’s a wee bit concerned about Manchester City’s bid to become a rivaling world super-power.

So it should come as no surprise if we are to hear Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti take praise rather than the flak for allowing Daniel Sturridge to depart Stamford Bridge temporarily for Bolton.  The young prospect has flourished in the Lancashire surroundings, leaving the strife of city life and the woes that currently surround West London.

You can be sure that Ancelotti, if asked on the subject would rather look at the deal as good business for all concerned parties, which of course it is.  Bolton can call upon the services of a bright English talent for the remainder of the season; that bright young talent himself is finally getting his boots dirty on a Saturday afternoon, whilst Chelsea can afford to give one of their rising stars the playing time he craves without having to drop one of their current star strikers.

But on the face of things, Chelsea don’t appear to be reaping the same rewards as Bolton, at least at the present time.  Ancelotti will point out that his starlet will return to Stamford Bridge with the confidence of having played regular first team football and that it is bountifully beneficial to the Pensioners.  But every man and his dog watching from the sidelines will point out that the multi-million pound record signing they brought into the club to score goals can’t find the net, whilst the boy they let loose up north can’t stop scoring.  That, in essence is what it boils down to.

Is Ancelotti, deep down under that ice-cool exterior, secretly sweating over his £50 million man Fernando Torres?  After a calm and controlled pre-match interview, is the Italian cursing his luck that he has just off-loaded a goal-per game player?  Sturridge’s 38th minute strike against Newcastle proved to be the Brummy-born striker’s fourth goal in as many games since his move north.  Without admitting it, the Chelsea boss must be slapping his knee in bitter annoyance that his youngest goal threat is enjoying such a fruitful spell on loan while his current crop appear starved.

But would it really be so simple to say that Chelsea would be far better off had they kept the youngster at the Bridge?  Of course not.  There is much to take into account.  Sturridge’s goal scoring record for Chelsea this season for a start: four goals in 21 appearances for the Blues, 17 of which have come as a substitute.  Secondly, with an appearance record as paltry as that, would he even be on the pitch in the first place?  At Bolton, Sturridge has appeared just once from the bench.  Also consider the effect a loan transfer can have on both the player and the club he’s bound for.

You only have to look as far back as last season to notice that fresh surroundings can do wonders, and as far as loans are concerned, they don’t come much fresher than Lancashire.  Jack Wilshere was allowed the latter half of last season’s campaign at Bolton Wanderers under the stewardship of Owen Coyle.  The young midfielder, buoyed by Coyle’s enthusiasm, encouraged the Trotters to play a slick and stylish method of football.  He came back to Arsenal the following summer hardened by the temper of a feisty Scot and more learned in the ways of the Premier League.  In return Bolton developed a new kind of football, previously unheard of at the Reebok: they call it “pass and move”.

You don’t need to look too far to spot a trend emerging.  Young, keen players with “potential” to shake off and a point to prove can find their feet in an otherwise unforgiving and sometimes unfair league.  Rather than being thrown in at the deep end by their pushy parent clubs, the likes of Wilshere and now Sturridge can ease themselves in at the shallow end.

So there is no doubt that the change of scenery and the different faces at training plays a big part in the success of loaned players.  To suggest that Chelsea’s goal-scoring problems would not exist had they kept Sturridge among the ranks is ludicrous, just as it is to say that they are worse off for signing one of the world’s most natural finishers.  Ancelotti will undoubtedly be happy for Sturridge, as he will certainly return in the summer a better player.  But it won’t be too much to say that quietly, to himself, if not just in his head while he lies awake, Ancelotti must be red with rage at the differing fortunes of his respective strikers, and wondering why the young star couldn’t find his feet at the Bridge.

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