Last season, Raheem Sterling looked like a top, top class attacker. He was composed in front of goal, made the right decisions even in crucial moments and retained that blistering pace.

Raheem Sterling [Image from flickr by Kamran Hussain]
Yesterday, against United, he was panicky in front of goal and made some poor decisions when he could have made a big difference in the result. This was something which was surprising to a lot of people, as he looked to be a very composed player who was a very good finisher, yet he couldn't get past David De Gea.

Other than the fact that he’s now playing with a much worse squad, in a misfiring system and an uneasy atmosphere, the main difference between the years is the pressure Sterling himself is under.

Last year, with Sturridge and Suarez smashing in goals left, right and centre, Sterling wasn't under that much pressure. Not only is he now under more pressure from the media and the fans as Liverpool’s most important player, he’s now under serious attention from opposition managers in terms of game planning. Seeming as he is far and away Liverpool’s biggest threat, he’s going to be the most tightly marked and watched player, making it harder for him to make an impact.

Also restricting his impact is Rodgers’ system. Whilst last year, Rodgers seemed to stumble upon an lightning fast pressing counter-attacking team because of the pace they had up front and the energy of Suarez and Henderson made it incredibly effective.

This year, after selling the best pressing centre-forward in the world, which was inevitable, Rodgers signed what looked at first to be some very good signings, however the problem is that they have lost the energy and pace of last year. Luis Suarez was perfect for that system, so replacing him like for like was impossible. Rodgers tried to change the team, to make them a patient passing team, though that doesn't suit their best player, Sterling.

Raheem Sterling needs a fast paced game to be at his explosive best, and Rodgers has changed the team to stop getting the best out of him.

Obviously swapping Suarez for Balotelli hasn't helped, as Balotelli drops deep occupying the space that Sterling wants to operate in. Sturridge coming back might help, as it means that Liverpool will have pace up front and a lethal edge which they have packed, meaning that less pressure will be on Raheem Sterling.

Article contributed by:  Elliott Griffiths

Blog: Just Like Watching Brazil

Twitter: @ElliottBCFC