Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says Raheem Sterling's slump in form is "to be expected", insisting he will not rush the teenager's progress.
Sterling has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Anfield after making his senior debut in March last year, notching up 35 appearances so far this term.
His eye-catching performances also saw the 18-year-old called up to the senior England squad and he earned his first full cap in a friendly against Sweden in November.
However, Rodgers has not named Sterling in his starting line-up in the Premier League for six weeks as the youngster continues his development out of the limelight.
The manager believes it is to be expected that the winger's form has dipped in recent weeks as his first season at the top level takes its toll.
He said: "This is a kid we're talking about so we have to take a wee step back.
"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 first-team 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. It's 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. That zip has gone and that's down to fatigue. Was that to be expected? Yes it was.
"He will have experienced that before but not in the limelight like it is now. He's made such an impact that everyone is looking at him now. But the job is to nurture him.
"He's started his career at first-team level way before many get the opportunity. He's still got lots of improvement to make in his game. Over the years we will look at his plan and development and act accordingly."