Liverpool have two exciting wingers currently in the squad, Raheem Stering and Jordan Ibe. Sterling broke into the Liverpool side under Kenny Dalglish and continued to feature at the start of last season under Brendan Rodgers. Whilst Ibe only got his first first team appearance at the end of last season.
One thing both players have is bags of potential and Brendan Rodgers believes that the two of them still have a lot of work to do if they are to make it to the top.
Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo: “Jordon is only 17 years of age and even Raheem is only 18. We can’t forget that.
“We don’t want to rush these young players’ development even though we want young players to come through and we want to put them in the first team. We’ve done that over the course of the last year or so.
“But it is also important to understand that it comes at different stages for some players.
“Jordon has been in and around the first team for most of the season but there is probably going to come a stage where he needs to go out and play games and feel the pressure.
“But at 17 years of age, he is still developing.
“Look at Raheem’s progress and what he’s done in the last year or so. He has propelled himself from a youth team and reserve player to an England player.
“But they still have a long way to go in their professional careers and at this stage we’re just looking to manage that and make sure we nurture that for the future.”
Rodgers added: “They understand that if you are focused and playing well then you will play.
“But in the modern game it can be difficult for young players to break through.
“Over the last year or so they have seen that they are going to get an opportunity and if they can devote their life, be professional and take the opportunities when they come then they are going to have an excellent chance.
“You just have to give them the time and understanding. There are not going to be too many 17 or 18-year-olds ready for the first team, but we want them to be at 20 or 21.”
What is interesting to note from what Rodgers says with regards to Ibe is that he may need to go out and get more games. It would be a great move to send Ibe out on loan and give him more game time. We saw how well he did playing for the Liverpool Under 21’s recently against Middlesbrough where he grabbed three assists. It would be much better if Ibe was displaying this form at another Premier League club or even in the Championship. We have all seen how well Suso is doing out on loan at Almeria and it’s opportunities like this that our younger players need.
When it comes to Sterling, he has already gotten a taste of regular first team football last season under Rodgers. This season he has not featured as regularly and may not get many more opportunities to start especially if Rodgers sticks with the 3-5-2 formation which does not accommodate wingers. It would also be highly beneficial for Sterling to also be sent out on loan see he gets more games under his belt. There is only so much development one can do at Melwood and you need that extra step up of playing 90 minutes every week in a competitive game. One just has to look at how well Tom Ince has done at Blackpool having left Liverpool. He did not get much of a look-in at Liverpool but now he is getting regular football and he is looking like a top winger.
Liverpool must not make the same mistake they made with Ince, by letting him go too early, when it comes to Sterling and Ibe. As Rodgers points out, these two need two or three more years of development before they are ready for regular top flight football. It would be a scary proposition for defenders to face Sterling on one winger and Ibe running down the other.