Liverpool have had a week of ups and downs. A 4-0 thrashing of neighbours Everton at Anfield left the Reds in dreamland, along with the added bonus that a number of teams around them lost points on Saturday, and the prospect of City and Chelsea playing each other on Monday night. However, Liverpool couldn't capitalise on others' mishaps. A draw at the Hawthorns meant that the Reds were looking at 2 points dropped rather than 1 point gained, and lost the chance to make their mark in the race for that vital 4th place.
Although Brendan Rodgers will be disappointed that his side couldn't hold onto their 1-0 lead at West Brom, a lot of his players have stood up and showed what they're made of this week. Among these in particular, have been up and coming youngsters Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling, who have both been praised for their performances of late.
Jon Flanagan came back from injury on Tuesday night to play at right-back, as Liverpool formed a make-shift defence hence the absences of Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson, and Mamadou Sakho. After his injury put the brakes on what had been an impressive few weeks for the Scouser, he made his comeback to be a contender for man of the match in the Merseyside Derby. He made 5 successful clearances, as well as winning 3 fouls, the most of any Liverpool player in that 90 minutes. To come back into the side with such composure shows the measure of a player, especially regarding the nature of the game, and with more than just 3 points up for grabs. There were no nervy moments or near misses, as Flanagan bossed that right-hand side on Tuesday, and managed to take care of any danger that came his way. This was reflected with the stat that his passing accuracy in his own half was 100%. And Although only managing to get one cross into the box for Liverpool, there has been enough attacking flair in the Reds's side recently for him to be excused for that. Flanagan was substituted after 73 minutes, and was still recognised as one of the stand-out performers of Tuesday's onslaught.
Raheem Sterling has impressed massively after a somewhat turbulent year. Although impressing since he was brought into the side a few years ago, Brendan Rodgers took him out of the side for several months in what was an attempt to give him a break and work on his football. Many would say that this was a wise move, considering that some young players will peak too early and it may affect their careers in the future, or even worse, their inability to develop properly if they are thrown straight into the deep end. After putting in a consistent string of stand-out performances, you could say that Rodgers' move was the right one. This week was no different in terms of his current form. Sterling made two rapid dribbles through the Everton defence on Tuesday night, as well as making some of his magical runs to stimulate the Liverpool attack. He also made 3 vital interceptions to win the ball back, and get the possession back in their hands. His contribution was crucial in a game where the quality of Liverpool's forward line was highlighted as a danger for any team that comes up against them.
After an impressive performance against Everton, Sterling went one step higher in terms of winning pundits over, and he is now starting to get noticed as a potential prospect for England's world cup squad. Although the 1-1 scoreline wasn't what Brendan Rodgers was hoping for, Sterling still came up with the goods, and won the accolade for MOTM on Sky Sports. Trying to penetrate the West Brom defence, the 19-year-old attempted a total of 12 dribbles, completing a remarkable 75% of them, and managing to deliver 3 crosses into the box. These numbers reflect how the winger had definatley developed in terms of his strength, an asset that was highlighted in his game previously as a flaw, and something that may have prevented him from really making it at the top level. Furthermore, Sterling also held the most significant stats in terms of composure for Liverpool against the Baggies; he had the highest percentage of passing accuracy in the attacking half, with 75%.
The two English youngsters will certainly have impressed Roy Hodgson as he looks to build his squad for the World Cup in a few months time. However, in a more immediate sense, Brendan Rodgers' work seems to have paid off in terms of bringing the best out of Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling. If Liverpool are to make their mark and cement their place in the Champions League next season, these two players need to continue to impress, especially with the challenging fixtures that Liverpool have left to face.