Rodgers on Raheem Sterling: “I think he is the best young player in European football at the moment. He is 19 years of age and I don’t see anyone better. He is intelligent with the ball and he has been concentrating on scoring goals. His overall performance has shown so much maturity and, for me, he is the best young player in European football at the moment.” Sterling’s potential has been grilled by experts, players and other managers but he proved his worth for the Liverpool.” (via SkySports)
WHO IS RAHEEM STERLING?
He was born on 8 December 1994 in Kingston, Jamaica. Raised by his grandmother, at the age of 5 he emigrated to England with his mother. Having started off his football at QPR, at the age of 16 Liverpool brought him to Merseyside with the fee around £600.000 which could possibly rise to £5 million based on his playing ratio in the first team. He made his debut for the youth side against Aston Villa and impressed a few weeks later in a 5-goal haul vs Southend United in the FA Youth Cup. He made his first team debut against Wigan Athletic, thus, becoming the second youngest Liverpool player ever at the age of 17 years and 107 days.
Since the start of the 2012 – 13 season, Sterling became an important component of Liverpool’s starting line up. In the 2013 – 14 season, he continued improving with a regular starting berth in the first team. Raheem Sterling appeared in 47 games and provided 13 goals and 13 assists. In the Premier League alone, he played 33 games and provided 9 goals and 6 assists; a decent performance for a player who just finished his apprenticeship as a senior team player.
Originally eligible for Jamaica as well, Sterling unsurprisingly picked England with the fear that he might not have as good a shot as he would with the Caribbean nation. Fast forward to 2014 and Raheem Sterling is one of the youngest players at the World Cup with the England national team.
Sterling offers different qualities compared to other wingers in the team. His pace, contribution in counter attacks and transition games could be vital. The most comparable player to Sterling is Chamberlain, but his consistency and continuity is the problem. Roy Hodgson is a bit old school and could use James Milner and Lallana as a starter and use Sterling as a ‘super-sub’. Sterling could add pace and energy from the bench. Especially, when opponents need a goal, Hodgson can put Sterling on the pitch to benefit from empty spaces in the opponents half. Ross Barkley will be another rival for playing time. Barkley offers different qualities compared to Sterling. But Sterling can have a commendable influence on every game he plays.
Rodgers is the key figure with respect to his improvement as the Liverpool boss established his weaknesses very well and worked on them meticulously. His influence as coach on Liverpool & England players – Sterling, Henderson & Flanagan, is there for all to see.
Raheem Sterling featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014, coming in at #6 in the list of attackers. He was also named in the Talent Radar Premier League Team of the Season. More importantly, he featured in our Team of the Season in our inaugural Talent Radar Young Players Awards, and in our Readers’ Team of the Season, based on votes. He was also at #2 in the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 feature in the midfielders category, and voted at #3 by Outside of the Boot’s readers in the Premier League Youngster of the Season category at the 2014-15 End of Season Premier League awards. In his last season as a Talent Radar eligible player, Raheem Sterling was the runner-up in our Premier League Young Player of the Season 2016-17 award, and also in the 2016-17 Premier League Team of the Season.
STYLE, STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
Sterling’s passing, ball control and first touch have improved immensely. Compared to his first season as a senior team player, his improvement in technical department is commendable. His runs with the ball are well advanced, almost flawless. Perhaps, through ball aren’t the main characteristic of his game but he improved in that department too. His pace and composure – of which we saw plenty against City – are good enough for him to play any league in the world. His pace is perfect for the Premier League. His acceleration and pace are really close to flawless. On one occasion, in a one-on-one against Anita he showed a great acceleration to beat his man, leaving Anita desperate to stop him and drawing a foul. His determination to be a better player and ability to adapt is gratifying. His performance as an attacking midfielder in the diamond system was brilliant, exceeding everyone’s expectations.
He still has some problems with decision making but is very dangerous on counter attacks. In this position, Suarez delivered the ball to Sterling in a marvelous way. He runs with the ball very well and changes direction at such high pace that it causes defenders a lot of problems. We saw plenty of that against Newcastle as well. He is also capable of delivering useful passes, while also driving at defenders through the centre (his new role which he seems to be thriving in).
Sterling has a good understanding with both Sturridge and Suarez. Probably most of you remember this goal. Suarez manages to protect the and ball provide an amazing through ball. Sterling made a great run between the two centre backs. Kompany wobbled because of his injury and paid for that! Sterling showed great composure and waited for the right time to roll the ball into the goal. Guardian & Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox had this to say about his performance that day: “Sterling was superb – showing excellent appreciation of space and timing his runs perfectly. He charged between Suárez and Sturridge into a centre-forward position for the opener, showing incredible composure in front of goal – the one area of his game previously lacking.”
One of the best strengths of his game is how he manages to benefit from the empty spaces between the defenders. As you can see the right-back tried to mark Coutinho and the centre back didn’t have enough pace and time to cover his absence. Sterling easily determines the empty space and makes the run. After he received the ball, he went on to provide one of the best assists of the season to Suarez. What a ball that was!
At the beginning of last season, he was clumsy on the pitch. Rodgers cultivated him both as a player and a person, but he still has some conspicuous weaknesses. In my opinion, his biggest weaknesses is mental rather than physical. To be fair to him, he has improved in that regard with more game time. Being in a high-pressure title race would certainly have had a positive effect.
At Anfield teams usually prefer to stay deep against Liverpool and Sterling doesn’t have ability to prevail against those kind of defences. Against Chelsea this was evident as well, with the whole side struggling, Raheem Sterling too had a quiet game. He has to find the right key to open those closed doors. Rodgers and Sterling himself should think about these kinds of situations. In the illustration above you can see Sterling in the middle of the Chelsea defence. He didn’t move, wasn’t able to create space for himself or his teammates. This sort of set-up will be more evident next season as Liverpool’s opposition learn how to stop Rodgers’ side, Sterling will need to improve his performance against such teams.
On the pitch, physical endurance and strength are another weakness of his game, but compared to last season, his improvement again has been impressive. Gerrard has even stated how Sterling is one of the best in the squad in terms of raw strength. His contribution in set pieces – both in attack and defence – are limited, as well. He may even have some disciplinary issues, we saw this in an incident involving Howard Webb earlier last season.
Sterling’s defensive contribution is not bad at all. When he plays as a winger, he tends to chase opposition full backs and is able to provide pressing up front as well. This is something we don’t see often enough in modern-day wingers but the youngster brings this to the table as well.
This is what the experts, Matt Ladson & Paul Machin told Outside of the Boot about Raheem Sterling.
“When Raheem Sterling found himself out of the Liverpool line-up in the opening half of 2013/14, there were suggestions that he could go off track in his development, or that a loan move was required. Aged just 18 at the time, such concerns were wide of the mark. After an impressive, but exhausting, debut campaign the year before, what Sterling needed was a break – something he has since admitted benefited him.
His return to the side in December was initially slow, but since Christmas his form was nothing short of sensational. What has been most impressive is the way in which he can now operate on either side or centrally – credit must go to Brendan Rodgers for handing him his first start centrally at Old Trafford. Sterling has added end product and tactical awareness to go with his incredible technical attributes. He could surprise a few at the World Cup this summer, should Hodgson opt to build the team around him.”
“The only term bandied around more frequently in football than “world class” is “Wonderkid”, but I can’t think of a player more befitting of that title than Raheem Sterling this season. Since December he has been nothing short of a revelation for Liverpool. After an initially bright start under Rodgers the previous season he really seemed to hit the proverbial wall both in terms of his ability and mentality. As we approached the 2013/14 season I think the vast majority of Liverpool fans felt that at best he needed a loan move, and at worst that his days at Anfield were numbered. This was especially emphasised by the emergence of Jordon Ibe at the back end of the previous campaign and during pre-season.
However following a poor performance away at Hull City it was as though a switch had been flipped, and Sterling almost over night went from light weight kid to the stuff of Premier League defenders’ nightmares. Fast, direct, committed and with a frightening amount of strength from such a petite frame. Sterling’s ability not just to take on a man, but his WILLINGNESS to do so is a breath of fresh air, particularly for fans who’d been watching likes of Stewart Downing and Antonio Nunez fail to light up Anfield in recent years. Even a move to the “10” position failed to phase him with a number of great performances, particularly against Man United. Brendan Rodgers hailed the lad as the best young player in Europe and based on his 2nd half of the season performances it’s hard to disagree. If he can carry this form into next season he will be a sure fire contender for Young Player of the Year.”
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