Sterling, who starred in Liverpool's stunning 5-1 win over Arsenal on Saturday, is now making a strong case to replace Theo Walcott in the England squad after the Gunners winger suffered a knee injury that could rule him out of the World Cup.
Yet despite his impressive displays of late, Sterling still doesn't get the praise he deserves from the press, leading many Reds fans to proclaim that their young prodigy is actually a better player than Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj.
Januzaj burst onto the scene earlier this season with two goals in United's 2-1 win over Sunderland, and has continued to impress – sometimes even being United's go-to player, despite being just 19 years of age.
Whilst you can't quantify the responsibility that Januzaj has had in the absence of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie compared to Sterling being surrounded by Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, what do the stats say about the two starlets?
Assists and Passing
It's important for any winger to create chances for their team mates, and to be effective in the attacking areas of the pitch. Sterling has played more this season, so the stats are based on their production per minute. The two players have a similar assist-per-minute average, with Januzaj edging that category ever so slightly. However, the stats also show that Sterling has not only created more big chances than Januzaj, but has also completed more passes in the final third of the pitch, which makes him a threat for the Reds.
|Player||Team||Pos||Assist||Big Chance Created||Successful Final Third Passes||Apps||Mins|
|Adnan Januzaj||Man Utd||MF||2||3||149||18||1,081|
The two players are fairly different in their approach – Sterling wants to use his pace to beat defenders, whereas Januzaj is more of a tricky player who will look to use his guile to be effective. Nevertheless, both styles lead to taking on defenders, but it seems the pace of Sterling has been more successful. With the Liverpool man winning 51/84 of his attempted dribbles (61%) compared to Januzaj's 33/60 (55%).
Many have suggested over the course of this season that Januzaj has been the subject of hard tackling in a bid to nullify his influence, and having been fouled 45 times this season, which makes him the joint-fifth most fouled player in the league, despite playing considerably less than the players above him, suggesting his trickery bamboozles defences just as much as Sterling's pace does.
|Player||Team||Pos||Total Contest||Won Contest||Was Fouled||Apps||Mins|
|Adnan Januzaj||Man Utd||MF||60||33||45||18||1,081|
Being an attack-minded player, goals are always vitally important, and from that perspective, Sterling's two goals against Arsenal have now pushed him clear of Januzaj, with five goals this season to Januzaj's three. Sterling has also had almost double the amount of attempts on target as Januzaj has, but one of the most interesting stats comes from the amount of big chances missed.
Sterling has missed a whopping 10 big chances, behind only Olivier Giroud, Christian Benteke and Alvaro Negredo in the Premier League – all of which have had far more attempts on goal than Sterling. Conversely, Januzaj has missed no big chances this season, but certainly needs to be hitting the target with more of his attempts.
|Player||Team||Pos||Total Scoring Att||Ontarget Scoring Att||Big Chance Missed||Goals||Apps||Mins|
|Adnan Januzaj||Man Utd||MF||36||8||0||3||18||1,081|
In conclusion, the stats show that Sterling has been the better play across the board, but has received less acclaim. If he can continue to develop at the rate he is showing, the former QPR man could certainly make a strong case to make Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad.
With proven pace, dribbling and improving end product both in terms of assisting team mates and scoring goals, Sterling's future looks bright, and he could actually end Brendan Rodgers' search for a winger with more devastating displays like his one against Arsenal on Saturday.
image: © kong niffe