Sterling v Sanchez: Who's better?
LIVERPOOL v ARSENAL
(Tomorrow, 11.55pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Liverpool went on a 5-1 rampage when they hosted Arsenal at Anfield in the EPL last season.
Ten months on, the Reds look in no shape to take on the Gunners tomorrow, let alone repeat that breathtaking display.
Their best hope of victory rests on 20-year-old Raheem Sterling, who starred in last season's game with two goals.
But the Reds' task is tougher now that Arsenal have Alexis Sanchez, the irrepressible Chilean who has been one of the top Premiership players.
To rub salt into the wound, Sanchez snubbed the Reds to favour a move to the Emirates Stadium.
With Brendan Rodgers likening Sterling to Sanchez after the League Cup win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, how do the two players compare?
Few Premiership players can measure up to the two players in dribbling.
Both have the pace and nifty footwork to make defenders look like amateurs. They thrive in tight spaces and counter-attacks.
Premiership statistics show that there is little separating the two dribble masters too.
They average close to seven take-ons every 90 minutes, with a similar success rate of about one out of two.
The slight edge that Sanchez probably has is better physical strength, which makes him less likely to be crowded out by defenders.
- Rating: Sanchez: 9 (out of 10), Sterling: 8.5
They are the ones their teams look up to when the going gets tough. For they possess the remarkable sleight of mind that ensures they outwit their markers more often than not.
They have the technical ability to carry out what has already been mapped in the head too. It can be a through-pass, a lob over the last man or an incisive run.
When on song, Sterling is easily on par with Sanchez.
The England forward has set up four goals for his teammates, compared to Sanchez's five. He has also conjured up 40 goal-scoring chances in 16 league appearances, only two fewer than Sanchez who has played a game fewer.
- Rating: Sanchez: 8; Sterling: 8
This is where there is a clear disparity. Sanchez has been excellent for the Gunners from the start.
Sterling, on the other hand, is struggling to match the bar he set last season.
He blows hot and cold in a team that blow cold and colder. Liverpool's reliance on him, as seen when they hoof the ball to him at almost every opportunity, doesn't make it easier for the diminutive Englishman.
- Rating: Sanchez: 9, Sterling: 5
4 BIG-GAME TEMPERAMENT
For someone who excelled for Barcelona before his Arsenal move, Sanchez is the finished article. Sterling is merely a raw gem.
It is why Sanchez has been able to single-handedly haul the Gunners out of trouble at times, while Sterling's knees sometimes seem to buckle when too much responsibility is placed on his young shoulders.
There have been moments of absolute brilliance by the 26-year-old Chilean. He almost always rises to the occasion, be it in the Premier League or the Champions League.
Perhaps it's hardly surprising Sterling has gone missing in the big games, since none of his teammates have been faring any better.
He showed in the previous campaign, though, that he has the potential of developing into a big-game player. With a little more experience, he can take his game up another level.
Rating: Sanchez: 8.5, Sterling: 7
Liverpool didn't do all that badly in last Sunday's 0-3 defeat by Manchester United.
But they spurned numerous gilt-edged chances that they wouldn't have missed a year ago.
The biggest culprit was Sterling, who thrice went one-on-one with United goalkeeper David de Gea. However, he failed to beat the Spaniard even once.
It pretty up summed up one of his main weakness.
When the Reds banged in 101 league goals last term, Sterling notched just nine.
This season, he has scored just three while Sanchez has nine goals (none from the penalty spot) and ranks third in the top-scorers' chart.
The goals-to-shot ratio doesn't flatter Sterling either, his 13 per cent is way behind Sanchez's 32 per cent.
- Rating: Sanchez: 8, Sterling: 6
You get different types of striker. He’s more of an Alexis Sanchez when he plays as a striker — he’s not going to pin the defender. He plays in the spaces and he’s got the speed to get in behind.
- Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers comparing Raheem Sterling to Alexis Sanchez
Stay at Anfield, Gerrard tells Raheem
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has told teammate Raheem Sterling to commit his future to the club.
Despite his current deal having two and a half seasons to run, Sterling, 20, has seen his contract situation at Anfield become a talking point.
Gerrard told several national newspapers: "I hope he signs a new contract at the club because I think this club is perfect for him, certainly for the next few years. He's going to play most weeks, the fans love him here.
"He can progress here and become a top, top player here so I hope the people around him give him the right advice because he should stay here.
"He's great to watch, great to play with, he's got that pace. When you look up he's always giving you an option and that's what I've thrived on throughout my career with the likes of Fernando Torres, Michael Owen."
Gerrard added:"You've got to be able to have that (versatility) in your locker if you want to be top drawer.
"Raheem's got potential to be top drawer for sure. The exciting thing for all of us is that he's English. I think he can play anywhere along the front, he's that intelligent. He's got to keep learning, he's got to keep wanting it."
- PA Sport.
Wenger: why Alexis snubbed the Reds
Arsene Wenger has hinted that Alexis Sanchez chose to move to Arsenal ahead of Liverpool due to a near-guarantee of Champions League football.
Wenger's Arsenal, who have qualified for the knockout stages of Europe's elite competition for a 15th consecutive season, tomorrow face a Liverpool side who were Premier League runners-up last term but are toiling this season.
The Reds are out of the Champions League, having qualified for the first time in five years, and 11th in the Premier League entering this weekend's fixtures.
Much of the difference between Liverpool last term and this has been attributed to the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona.
While Wenger declined the opportunity to appraise tomorrow's opponents, he offered an opinion on why Sanchez moved to the Emirates Stadium, rather than swop places with Suarez.
The Gunners boss said yesterday: "All the players want to play in the Champions League. It's quite simple. We have quite a good continuity on that front."
Wenger persuaded Sanchez to move to Arsenal after meeting his agent during the World Cup last summer and then spoke with the Chile forward.
Wenger said: "I just tried to convince him that the way we play football would suit him."
Sanchez will experience the hectic Christmas calendar for the first time.
"He benefited from the fact I didn't take him to Galatasaray," Wenger said.
"He needed a little breather. It will have helped him.
"Players are used to a break over Christmas. The players from South America used to go home and in England they cannot do it.
"It's a shock for the system for everybody. Many of them suffer physically."
- PA Sport.