Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has explained the recent dip in form and first team appearances of young winger Raheem Sterling.
The England international set the Premier League alight with his dazzling and pacey performances in the first half of the season.
But since the new year, Sterling has seen first team action less often and his performance levels appear to have dropped.
Rodgers says the 18-year-old is feeling the effect of a busy first full season in the Liverpool first team.
He told the club’s official website, “It’s just a very physically demanding league and what you’re seeing now is more tiredness of the legs when before he could go up to people and take them on,” Rodgers said on the club website.
“That zip has gone and that’s down to fatigue. Was that to be expected? Yes it was.
“This is a kid we’re talking about so we have to take a wee step back,” Rodgers added.
“What he’s done since he stepped onto the pitch against Leverkusen in a friendly to Manchester City, as a 17-year-old, I dare you to look around Europe and tell me a 17-year-old who has made an impact in one of the big leagues. There aren’t many.
“It is so mentally and physically draining this league. It hurts experienced professionals and this boy has just stepped up from the Academy and played football and earned a contract off that.
“We have to nurture that and at times he’s got to have that mentality to keep learning. I was talking to him the other day about this, and if he didn’t kick another ball this season he’s had a good one.”