Run; chase down through balls; beat your man and whip in a cross. Wingers, on the whole, can seem a relatively simple lot. Hugged tight to the touchline, often playing as though with blinders, the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jesus Navas perform their stepovers free from the more cerebral concerns of world class midfielders like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Yaya Toure, tasked as they are with reading the game all around them and staying three steps ahead of the opposition.
Often amongst the most talented athletes in any side, wingers are also too often amongst the least tactically aware players on any given pitch. Having never been asked to develop the tactical side of their game, on the whole they can seem to lack proper footballing intelligence. Something which makes it all the more surprising to see Raheem Sterling, in the span of a few short months, blossoming not only into a top winger but a genuinely rounded footballer.
"He has had belief in me, he has put me in different positions and had the faith to try me there," said Sterling, crediting Brendan Rodgers' role in his continuing development as not just a deadly attacker but also a complete player. "He has had great faith and I am just glad I got a goal for him and a goal for the team. I knew there was a lot more to come from me. I just needed to have confidence and right now my confidence is sky high."
The difference between the Raheem Sterling who started the season as a promising youngster on the fringes to the one who now finds himself near the top of the teamsheet for his club and a likely starter for his country at the upcoming World Cup is stunning. That he now, still only 19 years old, appears nearly as effective through the middle as he does on the wing speaks further to his thrilling and almost unimaginably rapid development.
It speaks to Sterling's talent and determination; his willingness to learn and that he continues to push himself as a player. His skyrocketing development may also represent the greatest success so far of Brendan Rodgers' tenure, and of the manager's approach to continually seeking to teach the players, treating them as students as much as football players—an approach that has produced a side mentally strong enough to survive where others have stumbled.
"The last ten minutes were a bit nerve-racking," said Sterling, "but I thought everyone did collectively well. We fought for our lives, and we got the result in the end. The manager told us to make sure a result like [Chelsea's loss to Sunderland] didn't happen to us. He told us Norwich are fighting to stay up and we knew what to expect. We did really well to stay together when it was tough late on. We got the three points, and that's all that matters."