In terms of talent, Raheem Sterling has always had it. But bringing that talent to the pitch has sometimes been a bit erratic.
For a match that was supposed to be closely contested, Liverpool came out and smacked the No. 1 team in the Premier League in the mouth. Much of that was thanks to Sterling, who scored two outstanding goals during the lopsided match.
While he's usually depended on the abilities of Luis Suarez for his success, the Anfield Index points out why his second goal—his fifth of the season—proves that he can create without the Reds superstar:
All of Raheem Sterling's #LFC Premier League career goals (6) have been assisted by Luis Suarez.— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) February 8, 2014
That's the first time Raheem Sterling hasn't been assisted by Luis Suarez when he's scored in the Premier League.— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) February 8, 2014
Up until that point, Sterling had six goals that were all assisted by Suarez. With the midfielder finally finding his scoring touch on his own, that can only be a great sign for the Reds.
Ironically enough, Sterling believes that exact point that the Anfield Index noted was the reason for his lack of success early on in the season. David Maddock of the Daily Mirror reports that the pressure of playing with a successful player like Suarez initially took away his poise:
I realised I need to stop being shy among the senior boys. The best way of proving yourself is on the pitch. I had to be more confident
I wasn’t confident enough to have a shot myself and instead I’d pass it to someone like Luis Suarez. I needed to be more confident again—you have to respect the senior players around you but you have to stamp your own mark on the game.
Sterling's triumphant game also comes from motivation after being spurned earlier in the season. That time spent away from the first team helped him learn patience and grow as a player.
The young midfielder said he used the exile as an eye-opener that helped him reach his full potential, according to Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph:
I had to be patient. It’s hard getting that balance right. You have to realise you’re playing for Liverpool – a club with top players. There’s always going to be competition. But you can’t just sit back all the time and say ’I need to be patient,’ otherwise that chance might not come. You need to show every single day that you are worth a place in the team.
His recent growth has also caught the attention of Liverpool commentator John Bradley:
The change in Raheem Sterling and development of his game in the last few months has been wonderful to see.— John Bradley (@JBcommentator) February 8, 2014
Luckily for the Reds, that move has certainly paid huge dividends. With his two-goal game against Arsenal, Sterling now appears to have shed his formerly shaky demeanor.
If Sterling does continue his success from this point on, the sensational game against the No. 1 team in the Premier League might be where it all started.