One of the major points of interest from Wednesday's 5-4 win against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup was the performance of Daniel Sturridge. The 23-year-old was receiving his first Chelsea start at centre forward, a chance he's been agitating for for the better part of a year, and considering Fernando Torres' polarising form, Sturridge's performance was always going to be noteworthy.
And said performance was pretty odd, really. Sturridge blew a handful of clear-cut chances before finally converting in the 97th minute to give Chelsea their first lead of the match. All of his flaws were evident, but so too were the good parts -- he finds himself in good positions and scores important goals. It was a mixed bag, one that both sides of the debate will take as furthering their cause.
Sturridge's future with Chelsea is, of course, in serious doubt. His contract expires at the end of the season and there's no sign of him signing an extension. Indeed, he was linked with a move away several times during the summer, and I'd have to guess that the only reason he didn't leave was because the club would have been down to one senior striker in his absence.
As a result, there's plenty of speculation that the Blues might ship him out in the January transfer window as part of a scheme to vastly upgrade their talent at centre forward. The media's seized upon some post-game quotes from Roberto di Matteo as indicative that a winter move for Sturridge is not going to happen; here they are:
I get asked about speculation but I am very happy with him. He scored a goal and had a number of good chances. He's our striker and as far as I'm concerned he's part of this team.
-Source: Sky Sports.
Now, those might be partial quotes, but out of context they don't really look like a show of long-term support. No, they're not throwing Sturridge under the bus or anything, but di Matteo chooses his words pretty carefully, and he could have been far more bullish on the young striker's long-term future than he actually was.
Call me crazy, but describing that quote as "Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo says he has no intention of offloading Daniel Sturridge during the winter transfer window.", as Sky have done in the linked article, seems totally off the mark.