Brendan Rodgers had every reason to be delighted with his Liverpool side as they edged past newly-promoted Reading on Saturday afternoon. Not only did the Reds record a rare home win – their first in the top-flight this season – and a welcome clean sheet, but they did so with the youngest starting eleven in the division this weekend. Furthermore, exciting 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game to become the second youngest Liverpool star ever to find the net in Premier League.
Highly-rated Sterling has started every single top-flight game since making his full debut against champions Manchester City back in August and display at Anfield means he is again likely to be one of the first names on the team-sheet when Rodgers’ men face Merseyside rivals Everton next week. Spanish starlet Suso and sturdy right-back Andre Wisdom have now also played three games in a row and while many supporters have been delighted with how the youngsters have been performing on the big stage, there are some suggestions that players like Sterling will have to be carefully managed over the coming months.
While Sterling has played very well, there are some fears that he is being overused. Should Rodgers be unleashing this hungry teenager on a weekly basis, or is it now time to give him a rest every so often? After all, given their failure to replace Andy Carroll during the last transfer window, the Reds are short of attacking players with a real eye for goal. Sterling is one of them. They cannot afford to burn him out.
Whether Rodgers actually wants to pick and choose which games his youngsters start is unknown, but the difficulty for the former Swansea boss is that Wisdom, Sterling and Suso are putting in some excellent performances when chosen. What kind of effect would giving them a rest have both on them and on the team as a whole?
In the case of Sterling, in the eyes of some, the 17-year-old wide-man has quickly risen to become the Reds’ most potent weapon in his position. Fellow wingers Stewart Downing and Oussama Assaidi have made just a single Premier League start between them, with four appearances in total as substitutes.
At the moment, it does not seem as though Sterling is feeling any pressure, and indeed he looks to be enjoying his performances. But Rodgers is now relying on him to perform as a key player – and the expectation on his young shoulders, created by his own excellence so far this term, is totally different to the little pressure he was under when he first arrived on the scene.
For now, it looks as though Sterling will continue to start in Liverpool’s top-flight games and while Suso and Wisdom continue to do little wrong, they can also be expected to do the same. But Rodgers may soon have to start giving his exciting youngsters a rest. What it will take for that to happen remains to be seen.
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