Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling has had plenty of attention this season due to having more regular playing time as well as failing to sign a new contract with the club, which has created controversy and attracted interest from other clubs.
The 20-year-old began the season brightly and was Liverpool’s top scorer for most of the season, before being passed out by Steven Gerrard in the Reds’ away fixture against Chelsea.
Recently the Englishman has been increasingly frustrating to watch, which shows he is far from the finished product and has a lot to work on before he can be regarded as one of the top players in the Premier League.
Let’s take a look at the areas of Sterling’s game that need improving.
Raheem Sterling is Liverpool’s second highest goal scorer with seven goals in the Premier League and eleven in all competitions. This isn’t a reflection of his quality and is instead a reflection of just how poor Liverpool have been in front of goal this season.
The 20-year-old’s lack of finishing ability was exposed in their away fixture to Manchester United last December when he was put up front by Brendan Rodgers. The Englishman was a threat as he made brilliant runs and got into good positions but he wasted chance after chance. The game ended 3-0 to United but could’ve been very different if Sterling had better finishing abilities.
Sterling also missed an absolute sitter against Newcastle when Henderson put him in and all he had to do was tap it in. The Liverpool man showed his best and worst side of his game against Tottenham when he dribbled past their entire defence but instead of shooting, he seemed to pass the ball directly to Hugo Lloris.
The worst miss however, has to be against QPR (below).
The problem with Sterling’s passing isn’t to do with the quality of his passing but instead with his decision making.
The winger often tries to do too much by attempting to take on an entire defence by himself and losing possession or holding on to the ball too long and ending up in a dead end. Sterling needs to learn to read the game and when is the right time to pass to a teammate or he is going to continue to frustrate his fellow professionals, and Liverpool fans.
Sterling makes an average of 32.5 passes per game, 2.1 key passes per game and has a successful passing rate of 81%. Although, the winger is also dispossessed on an average of 2.2 occasions per game and has an average of 2.3 bad touches per game, which shows his decision making isn’t quite up to scratch.
When it comes to set-pieces, Sterling has zero input for Liverpool. The winger doesn’t take free-kicks, seldom takes a corner and doesn’t volunteer to take penalties, which was shown in Liverpool’s shoot-out loss to Besiktas.
The winger clearly doesn’t have the power or accuracy to take free-kicks or corners but he could at least attempt to be a threat when a ball is being sent into the box because he seems to disappear during Liverpool set-pieces.
The Englishman may only be 5ft 7in but his height should be no excuse to be ineffective during attacking set-pieces as he could at least try. The winger’s crossing is also unimpressive as he only averages 0.5 crosses per game, which is very low for a winger.
Liverpool’s defensive abilities have been criticised this season but it is unfair to only blame the defenders for errors at the back, as when it comes to free-kicks and corners, all eleven players must defend as a team, which seems to be a concept that Sterling struggles to get his mind around.
The winger was completely ineffective in defence during John Terry’s goal last weekend at Stamford Bridge, standing on the line beside Mignolet, he didn’t watch the ball on its way in, failed to pick up the movement of the Chelsea players and just watched the ball roll into the net.
Sterling’s defensive statistics are woeful. In 32 Premier League games, he has made an average of 0.4 clearances, 1.1 tackles, 0.5 interceptions and 0.1 blocks per game.
The Englishman may have shown moments of brilliance at times this season but he has caused unnecessary controversy for himself, which doesn’t reflect positively on him or Liverpool. The winger was caught inhaling laughing gas and smoking a shisha pipe, which led to images and videos being shared online, infuriating Liverpool boss Rodgers, who stated,
“For me it is something that when you are professional sportsperson at the top level of the game, I don’t think it is something you should be doing. It is as simple as that.”
The winger also went ahead and did an interview with the BBC without gaining permission from his club. The intention of the interview was so people would stop mentioning the contract situation but instead it showed that the player is only concerned about himself, as when he is asked about sending a message to Liverpool fans, he responds by making statements such as,
“I want to be the best I can be” and “I want to achieve what I’ve always wanted to achieve,”
but never mentions Liverpool in these statements.
The interview not only made him out to be completely selfish but also made him lose the respect of some Liverpool fans, which shows the youngster is failing to make positive decisions with his career.
The winger clearly doesn’t have the determination and passion for Liverpool, which players such as Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho seem to have naturally, raising the question; would Liverpool fans even be bothered if Sterling left Anfield in the summer?
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena