When this is the club’s only second league win at Anfield in 2012, there’s reason for celebration. It was only Reading, but Raheem Sterling scored his first Premier League goal for the club while Luis Suarez finally had some help to share the scoring burden with him.
It was a match that should have been over in the first half, but Liverpool’s lack of cutting edge up front on days when Suarez’ shots don’t fall in the right place is worrying. Another pass and another pass around the edge of the box instead of someone siezing the moment. Steven Gerrard has lost that killer instinct and directness of play for the most part, and there’s still no one in the midfield – not Sahin or Allen or Suso, that can make up for that.
The entire defense can focus on Suarez and his attempts in creating for others or scoring by himself. Eventually, a clever, soft little flick on created the space and opportunity for Sterling, who became the second youngest scorer for Liverpool in the league, behind Michael Owen, not yet 18 years of age.
Brendan Rodgers is trying and trying and trying to make his plan happen, while his squad rejuvenation which is based on quick learning from some of his younger players, is off to a so so start. The possession and passing around is working well, the finishing and actually taking the initiative in creating a chance isn’t there.
Sterling is something that’s a bit different. He’s not a striker, but a right winger (at the moment in Rodgers’ shuffling), but he keeps looking for a crease or opening to carry on through into the box. His finishing, overall, has been quite poor, but at some point, he gets the idea and the goals will start coming. He’s very hard to stop on the dribble, and a few more pounds of muscles on his body and a bit more of experience will make for a wonderful future, even present.
The important thing in Sterling’s emergence, especially with no actual option for a striker to come on from the bench and mix it up or let Suarez take a breather, is for someone to share some attention. Liverpool players made it clear yesterday that no one is likely to take a shot at goal besides their Uruguayan one-man show, making life very easy for one of the only two teams in the league without a win this season.
The confidence in Liverpool’s defense is still low, and they had to play a two left back formation for the final 15 minutes, as Jose Enrique played in front of Glen Johnson. Not having Pepe Reina at goal didn’t help with the confidence building, but Brad Jones was solid and focused enough when it mattered, unlike many instances when Reina blew it.
Steven Gerrard? I wouldn’t say a shadow of his former self, but there’s no influence on the match, while he’s not trying to find himself a position to be more helpful. Maybe drift to the wing and deliver crosses, allowing Sterling space to operate in the middle. Maybe getting orders to be a bit more aggressive and lean towards shooting at goal instead of distributing it and make him play closer to Suarez, like he used to do with Torres.
In the meantime, Rodgers has one legitimate threat to score goals – Luis Suarez. The rest seems to be just random, and not something he can count on for the long run, at the moment. Raheem Sterling might be a great finisher after a while, but for now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be the answer everyone is waiting for.