We had Sturridge, but we’re still counting down the days until he returns. We tried Balotelli, but we haven’t seen his quality. We tried Borini, and well… he got sent off.
In days gone by we could have tried Steven Gerrard further up the pitch, but that isn’t a long-term solution with him now being selectively chosen, and increasingly transforming into a Frank Lampard type of player. The man who has been given the responsibility, and stepped up, is Raheem Sterling.
Similar to Luis Suarez (although not at the same heights just yet), Sterling may not have been originally granted with the tag of a natural finisher, but has took the reigns when Liverpool were at a quite desperate stage.
It wasn’t just the defensive issues that were causing problems, we seemed to have lost the one thing that Brendan Rodgers was praised most for last season – finding a formula in which Liverpool can score goals, and lots of them.
It was really the Manchester United game where Rodgers finally gave up experimenting with the catalogue of strikers who just haven’t set the world alight for Liverpool this year. And whether you blame Rodgers for bringing them in or not, it just hasn’t worked, and something had to be changed.
The time came where playing without a recognised striker may be the only way to go. Raheem Sterling was the player most pushed forward, and a chances were a lot more frequent for him than in previous games; performances started to improve.
In the Premier League, Sterling only has 4 Premier League goals so far, which is surprising considering you do remember him featuring in some pretty important results for us. However, those results were only important in terms of keeping us afloat; as we all know, we haven’t had the best of times this season.
So far this campaign, Sterling has had 19 shots on target in 19 appearances, compared to only 10 at the same point last year. His positioning as converter instead of creator has taken a few games to get used to, but has showed that he can have an even bigger impact than what some of our recognised strikers can
The Manchester United game did conjure up doubts that he wouldn’t be able to fill the void until Sturridge comes back because of the amount of good chances that weren’t converted. However, that was one of the first times that we could truly see what he could do in what is a normally isolated role. Since then, finishing has improved, reflected in the 53% shooting accuracy in his last four games.
So has his more advanced and potentially clincal role affected his creativity? The 20 year old has created 46 chances overall this campaign, which includes 42 key passes, compared to 26 at the same stage last year.
It looks like we are beginning to see yet another step being taken in the youngsters career, as he continues to impress in every position he is played. Taking on the role as a striker, and therefore further up the pitch, opens the opportunities to see every aspect of Raheem Sterling’s game, as he continues to blossom with every challenge presented.