The rise and rise of Raheem Sterling this season has been a pleasure to watch for Liverpool fans, and few would argue against the winger keeping his first-team place, despite the return of Daniel Sturridge from injury.
Brendan Rodgers has once again put his faith in Sterling this season, and it’s paying off as the 19-year-old looks matures and grows in confidence with every game.
In Sturridge’s absence, Sterling and Suarez excelled—forming a partnership of their own in which both players assisted and scored goals.
During Sturridge’s seven league games on the sidelines with an ankle injury, Sterling scored twice, created 13 chances and boasted a pass accuracy record of 77 percent, according to Squawka.
Whilst goals are still something Sterling could work on in his game, the England Under-21 international is fast becoming an integral part of the Liverpool attacking machine.
Three into Four Won’t Go
Rodgers was too offensive in his tactics against Aston Villa last Saturday, when he opted to start with, essentially, four up front.
Sterling kept his place in the starting XI as Sturridge returned, but so did Philippe Coutinho and, inevitably, Luis Suarez.
It meant Liverpool were left with only Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in midfield, as Villa strolled through the empty space in the middle of the park time and time again to take a 2-0 lead in the 34th minute.
It was an overconfident and rather naive mistake by Rodgers, who later admitted the error of his ways in his press conference at Melwood on Thursday, as per LiverpoolFC.com.
In realising that, Rodgers will no doubt pull one of his attackers and replace him with a central midfielder, so as not to be outnumbered in midfield.
Against Villa, the attacker he pulled at half-time was Coutinho. And not for the first time—the Brazilian has only completed two of Liverpool’s last seven league games.
Coutinho is on a run of poor form, with his play looking weaker and finishing skills nonexistent, as picked up on by Henry Jackson for This Is Anfield:
His final ball has not been clinical enough, his shooting has left a lot to be desired and even his fitness levels have looked below par in some of the more gruelling matches. While the likes of Luis Suarez, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have been superb, it has often been Coutinho to blame for losing the ball or choosing the wrong option in vital areas.
As You Were
In essence, Sterling should continue to do exactly what he was doing, despite Daniel Sturridge's return to the Liverpool team. Although, now he is part of an even more dynamic, three-pronged Reds attack.
Naturally, Sturridge’s presence and understanding with Suarez may push Sterling into wider or deeper, but nevertheless creative, positions. He still forms the pivot of the team between midfield and attack.
A well-deserved rest for this Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Bournemouth will give Sterling the chance to re-energise for the big push in Liverpool's remaining 16 games of the season, where he will be hoping to impress Roy Hodgson for an England World Cup call-up this summer.