Belfast Telegraph

Paul Scholes: Raheem Sterling really needs a more polished finish

By Paul Scholes

It is only fair to give credit when it is due and having criticised Liverpool this season I have to say I thought they played very well in the second half against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-final on Tuesday.

I would go further than that: at times they were brilliant.

They looked to me like an energetic, aggressive team. This was their ninth game undefeated so clearly they have been playing better for some time, but I would put this one down as their best performance of the season so far, given the quality of the opposition.

They could have won it and probably should have.

Emre Can and Lazar Markovic, two from that group of new signings that looked so unconvincing in the first four months of the season have found some form.

I prefer Mamadou Sakho to Dejan Lovren in defence, not least for the fact that he always looks to play the ball forward. You need to be positive if you want to play attacking football and I see that quality in Sakho.

In attack, the trio of Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho did not appear to have set positions. They were given the freedom to go where the attack took them and that was part of what made them so difficult for Chelsea's defence to control.

The back pages were all about Sterling and it was indeed a wonderful equaliser that he scored. This young lad has great skill on the ball, his pace is clearly a major asset and more often than not he turns and runs at goal which is a great instinct for a player in his position. He will know that he needs to score more goals to go up a level.

I have no wish to rain on his parade but in terms of his goalscoring, there is an observation I find myself coming back to every time I watch Sterling. I don't rate him that highly as a striker of the ball and by that I mean, literally, how he kicks it.

Given the level we are talking about - footballers at the very top end - that might come across as a weird thing to say, but bear with me.

When you play football at the highest level for long enough and at close quarters with the best players day in, day out, you notice the small but significant differences in style and technique.

In a way, you could compare kicking a football to a golf swing.

Those footballers who really know how to address the ball have the full repertoire. They can whip a football with bend on it or hit a straight ping with no deviation either way.

They don't need three attempts to get it right, either.

David Beckham was the best I ever saw, the most natural striker of a ball I played with. Wayne Rooney knows how to strike a football, so too Gerrard, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric.

Watching Sterling I feel that the weakness in his game is his strike.

His touch is good. His problem is the hit. Too often his shots are a scuff or a bobble.

That said, he looks fresh and sharp and Liverpool will be that much stronger for it.

Their surge for the title last season was powered by the run they went on in the spring and perhaps they are gearing up for the same.

Their last defeat was the 3-0 loss at Old Trafford on 14 December and even though they were in a bit of a hole then they still created the chances to score five or six.

The roots of their revival were there and I expect them to challenge for the top four again.

eIt won't surprise you to hear that I couldn't think of anything worse than heading up a campaign to be Fifa president and having to tour the country to drum up support, but David Ginola has obviously done the sums and considered it worth taking on.

Ginola was a great player in his time. He could play off either foot, he could beat a man.

I don't recall him ever being discussed as a potential United target but he would have been good enough to play for the club.

I think Sir Alex Ferguson would have got a bit more tracking back out of him.

For all his qualities, I am still amazed he won the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award in our treble-winning season. What more could we have done?

Source Independent

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