AVB to keep Sturridge out wide

PA Sport
Daniel Sturridge
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Daniel Sturridge

Andre Villas-Boas has insisted Chelsea do not need to play Daniel Sturridge at centre-forward to help them arrest their alarming slump.

Sturridge's performances have been one of few positives for the Blues during the nightmare run that has piled the pressure on new manager Villas-Boas in recent weeks. Sturridge is the club's joint top scorer this season on seven goals, despite playing almost exclusively on the right of a three-man attack.

Villas-Boas said: "Our conversation at the beginning of the season was that we saw his potential on the wings - not only myself but also (Fabio) Capello and (former Chelsea manager Carlo) Ancelotti."

Indeed, he has netted as many times as Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Romelu Lukaku combined, the four forwards Villas-Boas has entrusted to spearhead the attack this season.

The Chelsea boss explained his plans to Sturridge after taking charge during the summer but that has not prevented the 22-year-old repeatedly declaring his desire to occupy a more central role, most recently after making his England debut in last month's friendly win over Sweden.

Yet, Villas-Boas said ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League game at Newcastle: "There is no purpose in using Daniel up front.

"We know he likes the striker position. It doesn't mean that he cannot perform it to the best and, if needs be, we will use him. But he will be here with us always counting most likely as a right winger."

Villas-Boas' stubbornness may stem more from a lack of suitable options in the position Sturridge currently occupies than a reluctance to play him in his preferred role.

The Portuguese likes his wide attackers to come inside onto their stronger foot, with the right-sided Juan Mata playing down the left, and the left-sided Sturridge down the right.

That is in contrast to Ancelotti, who preferred the right-footed Anelka or Salomon Kalou down the right, with the left-footed Florent Malouda on the opposite flank. Malouda appears far more comfortable down the left-hand side, having not been tried at all down the right this season.

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