Pros and Cons for Liverpool Loaning Out Raheem Sterling in January
As the January transfer window moves closer, more rumours surrounding potential ins and outs at Anfield are cropping up.
The latest features a possible loan deal for young winger Raheem Sterling, with Mirror Football reporting that Brendan Rodgers is willing to see him leave for the remainder of the campaign while bringing in a more experienced player to take his place.
It's a move which has several positives and negatives to it, which Rodgers will have to carefully weigh before making his move.
Pro: Regular 1st-Team Football
First and foremost, of course, is the fact that Sterling would get regular game time. Preferably, this would be at a Premier League club, but a Championship move is also possible.
He is not featuring as often for Liverpool as he was last term, restricted so far to just 221 minutes of Premier League action from one start and six sub appearances, with the England international having to feature for the under-21s to maintain fitness.
Going out on loan would aid his development by being once more thrust into the action and expected to compete and deliver the goods on a regular basis.
Con: Little Control over Tactical and Technical Growth
As is the risk with loan deals, the manager largely places the responsibility of the young player's growth with the coaches and bosses at the loaning club.
This can work well of course, with the player experiencing new training methods and new environments, but it also removes the control of his parent manager from the tactical learning of the player—or how much emphasis is placed on technique over physique, for example.
Conor Coady is getting regular games for Sheffield United in his preferred midfield position, but things did not go so well for Michael Ngoo, who was sent back from Yeovil before the end of his loan term.
Pro (with Caveat): Adding to the Squad?
It will be a bonus to Liverpool if they loan out Sterling and he gets game time, but only if they replace him with a proven commodity who can come in and perform for the first team on a regular basis—something which Rodgers perhaps has reservations about Sterling's ability to do just now.
A more experienced wide forward who has already been in challenge for trophies and European places would benefit the Reds—but only if the right player is chosen.
He would also need to be able to contribute to goal scoring, be versatile enough to adapt to different tactics and formations, and be suited to hit the ground running in the Premier League midway through the season.
Con: Failure to Make Europe Leaves Similar Problems Next Season
Liverpool are fighting for a top-four place this season, but if they fail to manage it—or indeed a Europa League place, as they have also missed out on this term—then next year will find Sterling in a similar position: in the squad, not enough games to go around, and perhaps with a new signing ahead of him.
It will have to be either another loan spell, or else he forces his way into the team ahead of one of the current established starters.
It's only a con if the Reds don't manage it, of course, and Rodgers will not be thinking about that possibility right now.
Any outward movement for Sterling will be geared toward improving him so he can have an impact when Liverpool are in multiple competitions once more.
Pro: Not Fitting into Current System
Liverpool have been operating with a 3-5-2 system (and variations thereof) recently, into which Raheem Sterling does not fit snugly.
A wide forward or a winger—perhaps even able to play as an extra striker on occasion—he is versatile to fit into a back three if Liverpool go 3-4-3, but he is certainly not a wing-back himself.
Sterling has battled and worked hard for the team, done a reasonably good job when called upon and filtered in at right-back a few times, but wing-back is not his role, and it would do him more good to go and play elsewhere in a system which suits his abilities better.
Con: Valid Concerns over Rodgers' Involvement of Youth?
This isn't an area which should be of concern for now...but it is important to address what appears to be a reversal of operations out of choice.
Last season saw the likes of Sterling, along with Suso and Andre Wisdom, have a big impact on the first team and play ahead of established seniors such as Stewart Downing and Joe Cole for a time.
Should Sterling head out on loan, all three would have been seen as dispensable for this term by the manager.
As above, it's not a concern seeing as though it is to the long-term betterment of those young players (and, as such, the club) but it is a difference in how Rodgers claimed he wanted to operate last season, and so bears watching for the future.
All things being well, though, Suso and Sterling will be back in Liverpool's attack next season, all the more confident and consistent for their spells at other clubs.