Is Raheem Sterling finally living up to his price tag at Manchester City?
After a draining summer of being on several front pages as a result of England’s failure in France, it would have been understandable for Raheem Sterling to struggle during the opening few weeks of the new season. He was subject to some terrible abuse in the media and for a 21-year-old that could have done some lasting damage. However he has worked hard during pre-season and impressed his new club manager Pep Guardiola. He is now an integral part of the new era at Manchester City and must be applauded for reacting in the right way, as it would have been easy for him to go down a different path.
He came to the nation’s attention during a good spell at Liverpool, almost helping the Reds to a league title. It was in that season that he started to emerge as a potentially world class player as he struck up an exciting partnership with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. However towards the end of his spell on Merseyside, his relationship with Brendan Rodgers regressed and he chose to leave the club in order to join Manchester City.
Sterling cost Manchester City £49 million, but it was a fee worth paying for the oil rich club as they needed more home-grown players for their Champions League campaign. At the time, Sterling was one of the best young players in the country and possessed the potential to become world class, which made him a priority target for City. During his first season, he contributed eight league goals (six scored, two assists), but that was lower than his output for the previous two years at Liverpool. There were concerns that he didn’t belong at the top level and his disappointing Euros only compounded these fears.
For England, he started three of the four matches and failed to make any impact. He was on the ball a lot in dangerous positions, but his final ball let him down. Sterling looked shot of confidence and it was a struggle to watch him play for the national team. His talent is obvious, but he wasn’t right mentally and should not have been used as a starter in France.
The way he was managed by Roy Hodgson and the response he received from his performances was damaging to his mental state. He is still a young player and too much was asked of Sterling at Euro 2016. Although he was criticised heavily throughout the summer, Pep Guardiola has revitalised the attacker and he is well on the road to returning to his best form.
Guardiola has been using him as an attacker and Sterling is benefiting from the role he is being asked to play. Sterling is allowed to push high up the pitch and he has taken to Guardiola’s pressing system well. He has been making two tackles per game and his work rate has impressed his new manager.
His attacking contributions have been superb, as he has averaged 2.3 shots, 1.3 key passes and 3.7 dribbles per game. Sterling has been given freedom in the attacking half and his confidence levels have shot through the roof. He is trying to make things happen in the final third, which should be applauded after a poor summer. Guardiola has shown belief in the young Englishman and is reaping the rewards as a result. Sterling has two goals and one assist, but that number could have been higher.
Manchester City spent a lot of money on Raheem Sterling and there have been doubts about his ability to live up to that price tag. However, the appointment of Guardiola has provided Sterling with a new lease of life and he is beginning to show signs of developing into a more consistent player. His mental strength deserves recognition and praise, as he has bounced back from failure at the Euros. The arrival of some world class coaches was always likely to improve English players and Sterling’s return to form is an example of that.
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