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Manchester City

Is Raheem Sterling emerging as one of the best attackers in Europe?

Jake Jackman

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Raheem Sterling

Manchester City have been remarkable this season and are emerging as one of the best teams in Premier League history. Their summer recruitment was smart and they strengthened areas that were seen as weak last season. However, concerns arose regarding the future of Raheem Sterling.

The arrival of Bernardo Silva threatened to limit his game-time and there were reports linking him to Arsenal as part of a swap deal to capture Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez. That didn’t happen, but few would have predicted the breakout season that the winger has had. He was always seen as a good player, but he is now performing at a level that he can be considered one of the best attackers in Europe.

The league leaders remain unbeaten and they delivered one of their best performances of the season at the weekend as they ran out 4-1 winners against Tottenham. Within six days, they secured three victories, including wins against top-six rivals Manchester United and Spurs. If there were any remaining doubts about the quality of this City team, they have now been put to bed. It is now a matter of when will, rather than if, they win the Premier League title.

Sterling showed his high level of confidence during the match, recovering from a few missed chances to score twice and clinch the result for his team. There was one particular opportunity that he should have done better with, blasting a rebound over the bar. If this happened in previous seasons, the winger may have hidden as a result in order to avoid making any more mistakes. However, he has improved significantly under Pep Guardiola and continued to put himself in positions to cause problems for Spurs.

The City manager will not be bothered about Sterling missing chances, as long as he doesn’t let it affect his confidence and he continues to get into threatening situations. The Englishman’s first goal displayed good movement from the winger as he kept up with play before giving teammate Leroy Sane an easy option from a squared pass.

Meanwhile, his second goal showed excellent composure as he ran through on goal and coolly slotted past Hugo Lloris, before rounding the Frenchman to ensure the ball was goalbound. Again, an earlier version of the 23-year-old would have rushed the finish, but he is now a more accomplished player and always carries a goal threat.

Against Tottenham, Sterling attempted six shots – more than any other player on the pitch. Guardiola has directed him to play a more advanced role and that is evident when he is in action. He operates as a secondary striker and is encouraged to move into central areas to pose a threat to the opposition goal, whereas Leroy Sane is the carrying out a more creative role on the opposite wing.

In addition to his influence in the six yard box, the England international continues to pose problems when running with the ball. He completed two dribbles and made three key passes on Saturday evening, showing that he has become a well-rounded player under his Spanish head coach.

Is he one of the best attackers in Europe?

One swallow doesn’t make a summer and Sterling will have to display this quality over a longer stretch of time before he can be considered as one of the best attackers in Europe. However, on current form, he has emerged as one of the biggest goal threats in the Premier League, and certainly has to be considered. Sterling is currently third in the English top flight’s list of highest scorers, with 11. He has scored a goal every 110 minutes – a better ratio than both Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku.

Few would have predicted that at the beginning of the season, but he has developed considerably over the last six months. Guardiola is one of the best coaches in the world and he has displayed that once again with Manchester City. His critics will point towards the money that he has spent, but that would be oversimplifying the job that he is doing. The players that he has inherited have benefited from his coaching, with Fabian Delph, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Sterling all playing the best football of their careers.

At the age of 23, Sterling is now producing the consistency and quality that people hoped he would. The move to Manchester City was a risk at the time, but the arrival of Guaridola has breathed new life into the winger’s career and he still has time to develop even further. During the summer, it was thought that the England international would play a decreased role this season, but he has started 13 of the 18 Premier League matches that City have played.

The second half of the season and the coming World Cup will show us whether Sterling has become a world class footballer. It is too soon to get carried away, but his form so far this season is enough to suggest he is on the right track.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace should swoop for Manchester City’s Yaya Toure on a free

The Ivorian midfielder looks set to leave the Etihad this summer.

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Yaya Toure
Photo: Getty Images

When Manchester City legend Yaya Toure was thrown on to the pitch with 25 minutes to go against Swansea City on Sunday, the City faithful were given a chance to celebrate the wonderful Citizens career of the Ivorian.

It was a perfect cameo for Toure, delivering a pinpoint chipped assist to Gabriel Jesus for City’s fifth goal.

Toure celebrated at the Etihad on the way to his third Premier League title, but he faces an uncertain future as Manchester City are unlikely to offer him a new contract.

The Metro reported that the 34-year-old wishes to remain in the Premier League, and Crystal Palace should seriously consider making a move for Toure.

Palace know all too well the supreme qualities of the midfielder. When Toure made his return from the exile Pep Guardiola imposed on him in November 2016, his first appearance came at Selhurst Park.

(Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ivory Coast international absolutely bossed the show that match, scoring two emphatic goals en route to a 2-1 victory, after three months out of the first team squad. It was a timely reminder of Toure’s unique skills, which would be perfectly suited to Crystal Palace’s style of play.

Roy Hodgson’s side play matches with a high-intensity, all-action swagger, and the coolness and relentless drive of Yaya Toure would slot in seamlessly. Toure would also add an experienced head to the Eagles, with lengthy spells playing for the best teams in the world.

Even though Toure is 34 years old, he still possesses a superb reading of the game and tremendous work rate. He is truly a box-to-box midfielder, running back to snuff out danger one moment, and striding forward and leading the attack the next.

A move to Selhurst Park would suit both sides, as the Ivorian wishes to keep his young family settled in England. Crystal Palace would do brilliantly to acquire the services of the three-time Premier League champion, a transfer that would lead them to the top-half of the top-flight table.

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Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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English Premier League

Kyle Walker’s move to Manchester City justified and Tottenham must learn lessons

The England international has won the silverware he craved at Manchester City.

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Manchester City finally wrapped up the Premier League title yesterday evening, without kicking a ball. Manchester United’s shock loss to West Brom at Old Trafford gave City an unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League table.

For one City player, it was the justification of a big decision made last summer.

Kyle Walker made it clear to former employers Tottenham Hotspur that he wanted to leave the club last summer. The England international was subsequently dropped for Kieran Trippier and sold. City paid Tottenham a total transfer package reported to be in the region of £54 million by The Times.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The motivation behind Walker’s exit was often questioned by Tottenham fans. He made it clear that his main reason behind leaving City was to win silverware, something that was not happening at Tottenham. However, in terms of form, Spurs had been the better team than City over the previous two seasons.

It saw some fans suggest Walker left the club for the money. Forbes suggested Walker doubled his Tottenham wages with the move to Manchester.

Now, Walker can certainly feel his move was justified. After years of near misses at Tottenham, playing under Pep Guardiola has helped him pick up both the Premier League and League Cup winners’ medals this season.

Undoubtedly, the money will have had something to do with Walker’s move. But he also clearly felt his chances of winning trophies were improved at the Etihad.

(<> at Wembley Stadium on March 27, 2018 in London, England.

It is a sickener for Tottenham fans, but one they will have to take on the chin. Instances like this certainly highlight how tough Tottenham will have it trying to pick up the Premier League trophy whilst always fighting a losing battle in the wages department.

The FA Cup is still on the cards for this season. Manchester United are Tottenham’s opponents in the semi-final this weekend and Spurs will hope to find some silverware at Wembley this season. That can hopefully be the catalyst toward Tottenham pushing for the Premier League title again next season, and keeping players like Walker happy in North London.

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