Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Sterling- Starter?

This pre-season, we have been seeing a lot of Liverpool starlet Raheem Sterling. He has been very impressive thus far, netting 4 times and showing that he can combine very well with the rest of the team. Many believe that his performances warrant a place in the first team for the start of the season.

PictureFirstly, let’s address the issue of his youthfulness. At only 18 years of age, some people think that Sterling is ‘not ready’ for the first team, and should be given more time to develop. However, whether or not a player is ready for the first team is defined by their ability, not by their age. Sterling has proved himself to be extremely talented, and should therefore certainly be considered for the first team. As for whether he is mature enough to combine well with the rest of the team, it should be noted that he played regularly for the first team at the start of last season, at the age of just 17, and did exceptionally well. He lost his place through injury, not lack of ability. Fully fit once more, he has shown in pre-season that he is still perfectly capable of scoring, as well as combining beautifully with the rest of the team.

It is clear then that his age should not be considered a factor when considering him for our opening game against Stoke. One thing that should be looked at, on the other hand, is the competition he faces within the squad. He is a midfielder, and it is true that this is the most saturated area in the Liverpool squad. However, he plies his trade in a wider position, which puts him out of the territory of players such as Gerrard, Coutinho, Allen and Henderson. His only real competition is Stewart Downing and new signing Iago Aspas. Aspas has looked very promising in pre-season, and looks a likely candidate to make the first team for the coming season. However, given the option between Sterling and Downing, I would take Sterling any day of the week. He has more pace, is better on the ball, and is better at passing and crossing. I think that Liverpool should line up in a 4-2-3-1 this season (see my previous article), meaning there is space for two attacking wide players in the team. It would make sense, therefore, to play Aspas on the right and Sterling on the left, with maestro Philippe Coutinho down the middle, all behind Daniel Sturridge. This combination of players looks very promising indeed.

As well as the competition within the squad, the outside competition should also be debated when deciding to play Sterling. For the first game of the season, this will be Stoke. Sterling would be perfectly suited to playing against a team such as Stoke. They are not the quickest of teams, and have the tendency to come up with a fair amount of clumsy tackles. Sterling’s pace and agility would be nigh on impossible for Stoke to deal with, and he would most likely to be able to create lots of space for himself and others, as well as drawing lots of fouls. He is also very strong for such a small player, and would therefore be able to stand up to the physical presence of the Stoke defence.

On the whole, I certainly think that Sterling should, and will, be given a chance in the first team this season. Brendan Rodgers, like all good managers, gives players a chance in the first team if they are performing well enough, and Sterling has been one of our stand-out players in pre-season. He will almost without question be selected ahead of Downing (who is rumoured to be on his way out of the club anyway, possibly to Newcastle), and he has the potential to be hugely effective in our opening fixture against Stoke. It’s a big season for the 18 year old, and if he continues to play like he has been in pre-season he will not only cement himself as a regular in our side, but also almost certainly prompt another international call-up. He’s an exceptional young talent, and Liverpool are lucky to have him.
-James Martin
Follow me on Twitter @JamesMartin013

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