Liverpool: Rodgers Defends Drained Sterling
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has revealed fatigue is behind Raheem Sterling's recent dip in form and a subsequent omission from the starting eleven...
After bursting onto the scene at the start of the season with a series of exciting displays, Liverpool starlet Raheem Sterling has been going through somewhat of a lull in his brief career of late.
The 18-year-old has not started a Premier League game since the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United six weeks ago and when he has seen game time the showings have not reached the heights of previous performances.
For someone at such a formative point in their development this is not exactly surprising however and there should be no cause for undue alarm, as Kop boss Brendan Rodgers explains.
"This is a kid we're talking about so we have to take a wee step back," analysed the Northern Irishman in quotes originally published by the Guardian.
"I dare you to look around Europe and tell me a 17-year-old who has made such an impact in one of the big leagues. There aren't many.
"It is so mentally and physically draining this league. It hurts experienced professionals and this boy has just stepped up from the Academy and played first-team football and earned a contract off that. We have to nurture that and at times he's got to have that mentality to keep learning."
Sterling's presence in the starting eleven has also been affected by the January transfer window purchases of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, both of whom have bolstered the attacking options at Rodgers' disposal.
The form of Stewart Downing has also played its part but even when the new additions were cup-tied for the Europa League games against Zenit Saint Petersburg, Sterling only started one of the two legs.
Even with Liverpool requiring impetus and goals in the second game it was not until the 84th minute that the Jamaican-born speedster was summonsed - some 25 minutes after fellow winger Oussama Assaidi entered the fray.
That said, and despite there still being 11 league games remaining, Rodgers believes Sterling's season can already be defined as a success.
"If he didn't kick another ball this season, he's had a good one," added Rodgers.
"It's a very physically demanding league and what you're seeing now is more tiredness of the legs when before he could go up to people and take them on. That zip has gone and that's down to fatigue. Was that to be expected? Yes it was.
"He will have experienced that before but not in the limelight like it is now. He's made such an impact that everyone is looking at him now.
"But the job is to nurture him. He's started his career at first-team level way before many get the opportunity. He's still got lots of improvement to make in his game. Over the years we will look at his plan and development and act accordingly."
Only Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez have made more first-team appearances for Liverpool than Sterling this season and his return currently stands at two goals and five assists.
In November, the former Queens Park Rangers trainee, who made his Liverpool debut last season at the tender age of 17 years and 107 days, earned both his first full England cap and a new five-year contract at Anfield.
All players go through tough periods in their careers when they are either out of favour or form has deserted them. Sterling has so much ability and potential that this will hopefully be nothing more than a temporary blip. Although, as Rodgers alludes to, a lot depends on the player himself and if he has the right mentality to give his all day-in and day-out. The youngster has attracted some unsavoury off-field headlines in recent months but hopefully his disappearance from social media is a sign of an increased focus on football.
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