Pitchside

The PFA Young Player of the Year has already been decided

Pitchside

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Former Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby believes that one of the present starlets of the club should be in the running for the PFA Young Player of the Year award with Raheem Sterling enjoying a stellar campaign as part of Liverpool's rampaging attack.

Of course, there will be plenty of other contenders for the award too, with Southampton's Luke Shaw, Everton's Ross Barkley and Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj — plus a handful of others — having shown great form this term, with latter two especially enjoying breakout seasons.

Sterling, though, has arguably been the most consistent of the lot, holding down a regular place in the starting line-up since December and playing an important role for a team currently top of the league.

Liverpool have arguably been the most exciting and attack-minded side in the top flight over the second half of the season, with Sterling playing a pivotal part in a number of positions.

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While he is nominally a winger, he has also played as an inverted forward from the left and in a creative, thrusting attacking role behind two forwards in the Reds' diamond midfield.

Very much developing as an all-round attacker, Sterling has contributed more in Premier League matches than either Januzaj or Barkley can lay claim to at this stage.

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The three have enjoyed similar amounts of game time this season but it is Sterling who leads in almost every key category when the trio are compared.

Barkley wins out in total shots attempted and pass completion rate, with Sterling topping the little group elsewhere.

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Regarding chances created, the Liverpool man is averaging just under two per 90 minutes. Januzaj creates 1.5, Barkley just over 1.0, Sterling's pace and acceleration are of course huge bonuses, but the young forward has shown a great eye for a pass and boasts ever-improving technique, especially in the final third.

Looking at the shooting aspect of their game, Barkley might attempt to score more often—over three shots per 90 for the Everton man, compared to 2.8 for Januzaj and a far lower 1.8 for Sterling—but it is still the Liverpool man who gets more of his shots on target, with a 68% accuracy rate, and also finds the net more often. His six goals this season work out to 0.3 per 90, with his rivals trailing behind that rate.

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Sterling also manages almost 3.5 successful take-ons per 90, a big part of his game as he looks to break through defensive lines and open up space for himself and others.

Both Januzaj and Barkley manage between 2.5 and 3.0, impressive in their own right, but Sterling is again head and shoulders above in that regard.

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Add in Sterling's improved tactical understanding, his overlooked but prodigious defensive work rate and the fact he is playing in a successful side and almost sure to go to the World Cup as part of the England squad, and it is clear that Molby's words have merit—Sterling deserves to be the Young Player of the Year.

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