18-year-old Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United and 19-year-old Raheem Sterling of Liverpool have been two of the revelations of the 2013/2014 season so far. Although Sterling has been in and out of the Liverpool first team since 2012 and Januzaj a newcomer under David Moyes at United, they represent the heart of the Premier League’s efforts to bring youth and home-grown talent through to shine at the very highest level. Both are extremely talented youngsters and will undoubtedly flourish over the next decade. Their futures are very bright indeed.
But how are they getting on at this very moment. It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. Via good old Opta stats.
Whilst Raheem Sterling has been starting every game for Liverpool and performing at a very high standard, impressing in bigger games and week-in, week-out alongside the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, Januzaj has been finding it difficult to force himself into the United starting eleven since the arrival of Juan Mata and return to fitness of strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
Therefore, to compare upon minutes played and literal statistics is perhaps unfair; instead we will deal with percentages and averages in order to paint a more complete picture of how things currently stand between the two (NB: the table below features data from Premier League fixtures only). It makes interesting reading…
Immediate reaction, of course, is that Sterling’s stats appear superior in comparison to Januzaj’s, in everything aside from assists and crossing accuracy. Januzaj’s influence in United’s goalscoring and chance creating, though, is undeniable thanks to these figures. He is the second highest assister in the United squad, behind only Wayne Rooney (11), and this aspect of his game is – at this early stage of his career – his strongest asset. The club are best suited to his wide play, cutting in from the right hand side or beating his full-back down the left hand side.
Where Sterling has the edge is goalscoring and shooting accuracy. He works the keeper far more than United’s prodigy and his overall goals count for his Liverpool career is impressive for a wide man, and an inexperienced one at that. At the moment, he will score one goal in three compared to Januzaj’s one in four (roughly) and this is down to better finishing and, perhaps, composure in front of the goal.
If these two sets of strengths could be merged together, we would have one heck of a good player on our hands; and this is what makes their futures quite so bright. If Januzaj can score more goals and Sterling become more involved in phases of team play that lead to goals, they will be two of the most sought-after youngsters in the league, Europe and maybe even the world, very soon.
In addition, both men have a lot of striking similarities that make the comparison even more effective. Pace, particularly in Sterling’s case, is key to their work. Liverpool and United fans are already used to this pair, easing past others and through phases of play and areas on the pitch. Both possess an excellent locker of tricks and dummies sending opponents the wrong way to aid this – indeed, Januzaj is one of the most fouled players in the league thus far in 2013/2014. However, both are particularly reliant on one foot; Januzaj with his left and Sterling with his right. Again: another area that if worked upon, could contribute to future devastation among full backs and centre halves.
To summarise: whilst perhaps Sterling has the more complete game to call upon at this moment in time (backed up by the geniuses at Opta), Januzaj’s lack of exposure to English and European football means he is slightly further behind his counterpart. However, in future seasons, once he has had more pitch time and first team experience, expect him to reach and in all likelihood, surpass Sterling’s level. Either way, Manchester United and Liverpool fans will be able to sit back and enjoy – hopefully, for many years to come.