Raheem Sterling may be Liverpool’s top Premier League scorer so far this season with three goals, but Brendan Rodgers would surely not be wrong to expect more from the England international with his side floundering in the bottom half of the standings.
With Luis Suarez gone and Daniel Sturridge injured, Sterling has by default become Liverpool’s chief attacking asset for much of the season, especially with his pace and ability to change direction a nightmare for opposing defences to deal with.
The below chart shows the average position by game that Sterling has taken up this season and it is worth noting that he has retained an attacking spot in the Liverpool team, without dropping too deep in search of possession.
The next chart below shows the average position of Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, who has scored eight goals for the Gunners and generally posed a greater attacking threat, especially in recent weeks.
The obvious thing of note is that the pair are virtually identical in playing midway in the opposition’s half, so where must Sterling improve to have an impact that Liverpool require more on par with Sanchez?
In short, it is simply getting on the ball more in the final third.
Despite playing the best part of a game and a half less in terms of minutes, Sanchez has fired in six more shots, had ten more touches in opposing penalty boxes and received almost 100 more passes on the field.
There is no doubting that Sanchez is the more natural scorer, but Liverpool have to do more to get the ball to Sterling in the danger areas of the pitch and this could be why Rodgers attempted to start Sterling pretty much as a central striker against Crystal Palace.
Comparing Sterling’s last five appearances to his first five, which is when he scored his three goals, the only main difference for the teenager is how frequently he is shooting. He now only shoots half as often.
In conclusion then it is quite simple as to how Liverpool get more out of Sterling. They need to ensure they get the ball to him more often around the opposition’s penalty box and then encourage him to have more shots at goal.