Has this season become make or break for Raheem Sterling?
Pep Guardiola has arrived into Manchester and is wasting no time in establishing his way of doing things, whilst shaking up the squad as well. Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Diego Nolito just the start of the revolution in shape. This will mean some of Manuel Pellegrini’s men are under pressure to prove to Pep they deserve to stay longer than this season, one being Raheem Sterling.
Three young, dynamic attacking midfielders already signed by Pep means surely some will have to be sold to make way for them. Jesus Navas is the likely fall guy as the new era begins, but Sterling will have to prove his worth after heavy criticism since switching to Sky Blue, but more notably at the Euros this summer.
Emerging onto the scene as a fresh, promising winger from the ranks of Liverpool, the spark has faded from Sterling ever since he moved to Manchester and now competition is even fiercer for a spot in the team. His ability is unquestionable, he is a very good player and will become a vital part of the England set-up as he grows and matures, but his future at City is there to be questioned.
The £37 million recruit in Sane is direct opposition to the Englishman for a starting spot alongside David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, behind Sergio Aguero. Sane is a year younger than Sterling and will be looking to learn from the more experienced of the young duo, when it comes to a debut campaign at Manchester City.
Last season, in two more league games, Sane scored two more goals and claimed treble the number of assists than his English counterpart.
However, Sterling created more chances and made more successful take-ons. This shows that Sane may have a more clinical edge to him and his final ball is better than Sterlings, a reason why Pep has paid the money for his services.
Guardiola will like to have an array of combinations and options to utilise during the season, so both Sterling and Sane will get their opportunity. Sane has a place already in Pep’s plans for taking over English football from the Etihad, yet Sterling will have to reignite the drive and unnerving pace that shot him into the limelight at Liverpool. Seven goals and eight assists in his last year at Liverpool showed he was utilised more effectively, often drifting to a number 10, alternating with Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge in attack.
Trading rivals with that £50 million price tag will have affected him, no matter how many times they say, “the fee doesn’t bother me”. With more responsibility and expectations at a new club, Sterling didn’t fare as well as his debut campaign went on, with Jesus Navas eventually taking his place on the wing. With Guardiola’s system and style, it may allow Sterling to have more freedom to be direct and run into space left by the floating Silva and De Bruyne.
The Spaniard can get the best out of him and develop him as a pro and player, but Sterling will need to equally repay his faith by working hard and performing on the pitch. He became known as the ‘Hated One’ in France this summer, as he named himself. In all honesty his below par performances didn’t do anything to change the moans and opinions of fans during the tournament.
This season is make or break at City for Sterling. He could step up, have an impact on the club’s season and prove his worth to Pep to stay on and be a key part of the first team. Or he’ll be overshadowed by new arrivals and not adapt to new tactics, instructions and an increasingly challenging league with teams improving all around them. In that case, Sterling’s money making move to Manchester could be over faster than he thinks.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Maycon Chaves.