Raheem Sterling’s form has been in decline since the end of 2012, with the player finding his starting opportunities few and far between in the second half of the season. Over-reliance on the young player early in the campaign has left him exhausted, a situation Brendan Rodgers will attempt to rectify by significantly decreasing Sterling’s first team minutes over the course of the remaining games.
"I was talking to him the other day about this, and if he didn’t kick another ball this season he’s had a good season," said Rodgers.
"It’s just 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. It was to be expected."
Many called for better management of Sterling’s minutes earlier in the season, but Liverpool’s lack of scoring depth failed to provide Rodgers with many legitimate opportunities to slow the pace of the eighteen-year-old’s introduction into the starting eleven. With reinforcements in the form of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, Rodgers finally seems comfortable with approaching Sterling in a way more appropriate to a player his age.
"He’s made such an impact that everyone is looking at him now of course," Rodgers continued. "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."
Rodgers isn’t wrong, of course; Sterling’s meteoric rise and ability to stay in the first team for much of the season is a rare feat for a player his age and the weight of expectation on the kid may be somewhat unfair for someone at his stage of development. Liverpool’s U21 squad, where Sterling has featured recently, seems like a good place for him to rediscover that "zip" that made him so exciting to watch just a few short months ago.