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Sterling Outshines Arsenal to Force Himself Into England's Plans

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Outshining Arsenal on Saturday and his only realistic challenger for young player of the season in recent weeks, Raheem Sterling's scintillating form has the young winger in line to start for England.

Michael Regan

Given the extent to which Liverpool crushed Arsenal on Saturday, it would have been hard to go wrong when it came to picking the day's most impressive performer in red. Still, of the eleven on the pitch to start the day, three stood out most. Martin Skrtel's two goals and strong defending at the back; Philippe Coutinho's top performance in central midfield; and Raheem Sterling's attacking display that earned official man of the match plaudits.

Sterling may not always have been given the recognition his play deserves these past months, at least amongst a wider punditry caught up in the hype surrounding Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj. With United continuing to stumble and Sterling's performances against Everton and Arsenal in particular that's finally starting to change. And it's only right given Sterling creates more chances, passes more accurately, and scores at a better rate than Januzaj.

Now, there are rumours swirling that Sterling is likely to not only be called up for England's friendly against Denmark on March 5th, but that the combination of his current blistering form and Theo Walcott being out means the young winger is in line for the start and almost guaranteed a place on the World Cup squad come summer. The same United fans left clinging to delusional hopes of finishing in the top four might be the only ones left unimpressed.

For the next few months at least, though, Sterling's focus is firmly on club football and Liverpool's league aspirations. The title may remain unlikely, but rather than worrying about setting targets—either for the top four or the very top—Sterling is just worried about taking each game as it comes. After disappointing performances of late against sides Liverpool should have beaten, it's an approach the entire squad must fully buy into with a trip to face Fulham on Wednesday.

"We're just trying to get the three points," said Sterling. "That's what we did today, and we'll just go again against Fulham on Wednesday and then Arsenal on Saturday. We'll take it step by step and hopefully we can be right up there at the end of the season. The manager told us to press them on the front foot and try to get onto people and win the ball. Then it was a case of going from there and playing on the counter attack and that's what we did and we got a few goals from it."

Likely to sit back as they did earning a draw against Manchester United on Sunday, Fulham on Wednesday will pose a far different challenge. It's the sort of challenge Liverpool often struggle to deal with, with recent draws against West Brom and Aston Villa especially frustrating. On Wednesday, it won't be Liverpool doing the countering, even if this time they'll be the ones on the road. Given his play of late, though, few would rule out a few more goals and another top day for Sterling—and more so than even against Arsenal, Liverpool may need it.