Manchester City have had a perfect start to the league season, winning all five matches and scoring 15 goals in the process. Pep Guardiola inherited a talented squad, but the impact he has had highlights just how good he is as a manager. One player who has benefited from the appointment of the Spaniard is Raheem Sterling. He endured a torrid summer with England and was derided in the media as a result. The winger’s confidence must have been shot when he started pre-season training, but he now looks reborn and is arguably one of the best attackers in the league on current form.
Since the managerial change, Sterling has been given a new lease of life and is playing a role that brings out the best in him. City have midfielders that can dominate possession and pick a pass, which gives the winger the license to make dangerous runs in behind the back four. Guardiola likes his wingers to play further infield, allowing Sterling to get into more threatening positions. The England international’s movement has been excellent all season and he has been one of the main beneficiaries of the change in manager at the Etihad Stadium.
Against Bournemouth, the 21-year-old was unplayable and received a Whoscored rating of 10, emphasizing how impressive he was. His dribbling stood out, as he ended the match with a dribble success rate of 83%, from 12 attempted take ons. Bournemouth struggled to deal with him and were playing with a high line, which invited Sterling to run at them. His close ball control and rapid pace made him nearly impossible to contain for the Cherries’ back four. If Sterling can consistently perform at these levels, he will go a long way to fulfilling his huge potential.
City were without Sergio Aguero, but Sterling has stepped his game up and his relationship with Kelechi Ihaenacho is excellent. They assisted each other in this game when it would have been tempting to shoot themselves, showing the team spirit that exists at the club. Sterling is being encouraged to attack the penalty area by Guardiola and he had five shots during the match against Bournemouth. He was unlucky not to score two goals in this game with one of his efforts hitting the woodwork.
Guardiola is an excellent coach and improves the technique of nearly every player that works with him. After it was announced that he would be coming to England, it was hoped that he would improve a lot of our national team players. His influence on Sterling shows that he could have an impact on the England side. The pacey winger couldn’t pick a pass during the Euros and his decision making was poor. Against Bournemouth, he completed 94% of his passes. He finished the game with the second highest pass completion rate for his side, showing how this part of his game is improving on a weekly basis.
He is working hard defensively and has adapted to the pressing that Guardiola demands. He made one tackle and one interception, winning the ball in good areas on both occasions. A lot of his defensive work isn’t shown by stats, but it is positive that Sterling is willing to work hard for his team both with and without the ball.
It is still early in the season and nothing has been won yet, but is he can maintain his early performances, Sterling could be in the running for individual awards in May. He has been superb and is in the best form of his career. At the age of 21, he has joined up with Guardiola at the perfect time and could be set to become one of the leading players in the league under the Spaniard.
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