There have been more than a handful of times since switching to central striker that Raheem Sterling has looked out of place. He's largely been brilliant while operating in yet another new role, of course, especially with the failures of Liverpool's other identified strikers to make much of an impact. But on more than one occasion he's shown signs of struggling to adapt, which is understandable given his age and the lack of familiarity he has with the role at the senior level.
His improvements have been clear, however, and yesterday was as good an example as any of his ability to make adjustments in-match and find spaces from which he can best operate. His goal was a combination of perfect timing and cool finishing, and after Daniel Sturridge came on, Sterling showed versatility throughout the forward areas. From frustration early to goals and bursts of energy late, it was another solid display from a player who's only getting better.
That trend hasn't gone unnoticed, with Sturridge pointing out just how well the 20-year-old has handled his responsibilities up front:
"He's done extremely well. He's working hard and I'm proud of him as his 'older brother' to look at him and see how well he's done. I just hope he continues to work hard and play in the way he has because he's improving every single day. He takes it in his stride - he doesn't get too big headed, he doesn't get overly confident with anything. I take him under my arm when he goes through difficult times as well, but I give him all the credit in the world and I'm really proud of him."
The problem now--one that is far preferable to the one that's faced Brendan Rodgers for nearly five months--is fitting each of Liverpool's talented attacking players into the eleven. Sturridge will still have to work to get up to match fitness, but he's certainly part of Liverpool's best lineup once he is, and there's no doubt Sterling and the on-form Philippe Coutinho are as well. Jordon Ibe also displayed his promise with a strong cameo yesterday, while Adam Lallana and Steven Gerrard are candidates for roles in the front three or four depending on the day.
There is some distance between Sturridge and Sterling and any one of Fabio Borini, Mario Balotelli, and Rickie Lambert at the present time, though, and it will be interesting to follow how Rodgers decides to compose his attack. There are some combinations available that are more than capable of terrorizing opposing defenses.