17 September 2012

How Does Your Sterling Grow?

"I said when I first came here, I won't judge people on their status or what they've done, it's about what I see now in front of me, and [Sterling's] a young player who's improved every single day since I came in here."

"He was a player who played on his own, in the one v one. You look at him now, playing for the team, his tactical understanding playing against a really experienced player. He was blocking the line of pass, he was pressing at the right time, he was coming back to block the lines inside."

Brendan Rodgers after the Manchester City match

Sunderland: 33/35 (94%) [most accurate in the side]
Arsenal: 27/31 (87%)
City: 24/30 (80%)

Attacking Third
Sunderland: 16/16 (100%) [most accurate in the side]
Arsenal: 17/20 (85%)
City: 13/16 (81%)

Passes Received
Sunderland: 48
Arsenal: 40
City: 34

Sunderland: 2 (1 off-target, 1 blocked)
Arsenal: 1 (off-target)
City: 0

Chances Created
Sunderland: 4 [joint most created in the side]
Arsenal: 1
City: 2

Sunderland: 5/11 [joint most successful take-ons in the side]
Arsenal: 3/6
City: 0/1

Sunderland: 5/5 [most successful tackles in the side]
Arsenal: 2/2
City: 1/2

Fouls Suffered
Sunderland: 7
Arsenal: 1
City: 1

Admittedly, Sunderland were weaker opposition than either City or Arsenal, even if the result doesn't necessarily show it. Regardless, that Sterling's output has improved in each successive start can't be overlooked.

Each link goes to the StatsZone chalkboard for that match, but I embedded the images for the categories I thought most relevant. His passes show he was more involved in the build-up, coming inside more often even though he was a right-footer playing on the right. Similar goes for the 'passes received' category, coming inside and deeper to make himself more available but also stretching play by getting the ball near the penalty box more often. He attempted and completed far more take-ons than in his two previous league starts, more of which took place directly outside the penalty box. And his tackles chalkboard against Sunderland is massively impressive for a winger, in his own half and the opposition's, let alone a 17-year-old winger.

Everything Noel wrote two weeks ago still applies. He is too young to start every single game without risking his future, too young to be relied upon in match after match. However, his improvement in each match has been demonstrable, important, and demonstrably important. He's gotten better in almost every statistical category from City to Arsenal to Sunderland.

He's come a long way from "There are very few players in the world who get into a Premier League team at 17, never mind a top club. [Sterling] has certainly shown qualities and we'll decide over the next few weeks whether he stays and he's involved now or if he goes for a loan period." Which was said by Rodgers in mid-July, just before Liverpool's first preseason match.

On Saturday, Sterling was Liverpool's most accurate passer, overall and in the final third, and made the most successful tackles (both Gerrard and Kelly attempted more, but each had four successful). He and Suarez each created four chances and completed five successful dribbles – the most in the Liverpool team. Sterling suffered seven fouls, four more than the second most-fouled player. And three of those seven fouls came in the last ten minutes, including Seb Larsson's yellow card – Sunderland's only yellow card of the match – evidence of the home side's increasing desperation.

It was also heartening to see him do all this on the right side of the pitch. Both he and Borini have been far better on the left in previous matches; both had struggled to replicate their better moments on the opposite flank. Until Saturday, Downing arguably had been Liverpool's most-effective right winger.

I cannot emphasize the "we can't get carried away" mantra hard enough. But I also cannot help but express my surprise and joy at Sterling's accelerated development.


Ryan said...

He looked very comfortable on the right side against Sunderland, but I do fear that takes away his goal scoring opportunities.

I hate to say it, but that game was screaming for Andy Carroll in the box.

jonnySingapore said...

Sterling's style seems to go completely against Rodgers' ethos. It's a direct style, not a patient probing style.

Gerrard too makes the probing passes, lower probability but lethal with a class striker to aim at.

For me, sterling's strengths put Rodger's tactical style in the dustbin and simply reinforces Dalglish's style from last season.

At the end of the day they need at least 2 goal scoring threats and if this new scouting/recruitment team don't put 2 goal threats into the team in January and more in the summer then it's 12th place for the next 3 seasons.

And we won't keep the likes of Suarez or Sterling.

Ryan said...

Im not sure I agree with that 100% johnny. Sterling has been one of our best players at pressing the other team high up the pitch and winning the ball back. I think the stats discussed by Nate back that up. Not only is he regaining possession, but he is one of the only players on our team that is making space for himself (Joe Allen the maestro at this). That is one of the subtle points of Rodgers' possession style, it isnt just about passing, its about using the pass or dribble to get into space and make the defense react. Sterling has been excellent in every regard so far this season.

Anonymous said...

A true fan and blogger of Liverpool would have wrote a comment on the 96 that dies. Atleast have commented on it. Nate=fake american fan who just "doesn't get it"

nate said...

Really? Scroll down three posts. Or just check this label: http://ohyoubeauty.blogspot.com/search/label/Hillsborough

Alex said...

I think that the “overuse” idea at times is a touch exaggerated. Yes we want to look after him, but he’s not made of glass, and while people keep mentioning Michael Owen, he was going fine until he went to Real Madrid. It was the bench, not injury, which really finished him off. If you look at Wayne Rooney, in 2002-03 – when he was younger than Sterling is now – he made 37 first team appearances, and 40 the following year – and has made 40+ every season since then with no signs of early burnout whatsoever. Similarly Ryan Giggs, who lest we forget started his career at a time when a two footed studs up lunge wasn’t even worthy of a booking, made 51 appearances in the season when he was aged 17-18 – the same as Sterling is now. He has since made at least 35 apps a season. So yeah, look after him and all, but you don’t need to worry about burnout unless he starts to show obvious signs of fatigue midway through the season. As far as i’m concerned the big monster to protect him from is media/hype/publicity/stardom etc.

nate said...

I thought Owen was a decent comparison because of body type and playing style. Rooney's lack of burnout and ability to adapt to the Premiership at such a young age can be put down to his freakish body type. He was a big, strong lad then; he did not look like he was 16/17, that's for sure. Sterling and Owen are both tiny by comparison, and far more reliant on quickness and acceleration.

And Giggs is one-in-a-million. He, even more than Rooney, is a real freak of nature.

As I commented in that Liverpool Offside piece linked above, Owen definitely had injury problems before Real. He still credits his problems to a hamstring injury suffered in 1999, one which came about because of overuse and worsened because of the club trying to rush him back.

You're absolutely right to be concerned about media hype though. Hopefully the club, specifically Rodgers, will be able to keep his feet on the ground. Rodgers' comments on that subject have made me hopeful, at least.

Anonymous said...

Sterling has been our most impressive player on the pitch. The stats speak for themselves. 4 chances created at Sunderland and the 7 fouls suffered resulted in 5 free kicks in dangerous areas. 3 on the edge of the box and 2 a little bit out on the left. 5/5 tackles is also impressive. For a skinny kid he can press the ball pretty well.

Where will the goals come from? I know we're all saying it. Stevie was good for 5 goals last year. This year he has lost a step. 10 shots in the first 4 games, 9 of those shots from outside the box (5 blocked). The one from inside the box against W Brom was also blocked. As Jonny noted, the chance of scoring from outside the box is only a little better than 0%. Last year from "open play" Rooney was 3/67, RVP was 1/19, Bale was 1/60, Suarez was 1/21 and Dempsey was 0/54. I looked up all of Dempsey's 54 shots outside the box and his average shot was from anywhere from 25 to 30 yards. What's the freaking sense?

Anyway, back to point. Luis might be good for 15 league goals. From open play last season he was 7/95 in 2556 minutes for a goal from open play every 365 minutes (4 games). Don't expect Raheem to get many goals. He's creative, impressive etc. but still only 17. Borini, maybe 5 to 7. Maybe. Doesn't have power, pace or a great shot. He'll have to rely on movement and poaching a couple of goals. If we don't get at least one and preferably 2 QUALITY goal scorers/ strikers in January, I would't be surprised to have a 40 goal season. And without Steve Clarke marshalling our defense we're coughing up goals all over the place. Sunderland had ONE freaking shot in the box and scored when Fletcher outplayed Skrtel and got inside position. ONE shot, ONE goal.

How do you spell FRUSTRATION?

biggestfandownunder said...

Excellent as usual Nate. Thank you.

(Can't tell you how irate the comment about fake fan made me. Well done for keeping your cool).