Why Raheem Sterling showed potential as a centre forward for Manchester City against Bournemouth
With Manchester City’s attacking options, it was inevitable that a change would be required somewhere in the City squad. Few expected that change to be that Raheem Sterling would move into something of a centre forward role, with Sergio Aguero dropped to the bench.
In truth, Sterling played in a wider role than many journalists had speculated in the build up to the game, but he still looked to move central, particularly later in the game as it became more stretched with both sides looking for a winner.
In many respects, the England international thrived. Where he has previously been criticised for being too reluctant to get a shot off, he managed four efforts on goal on Saturday lunchtime, more than any other player.
Perhaps his biggest strength was Sterling’s movement. What he lacked in physical presence, he made up for with his speed and darting runs as he pulled the Bournemouth defence all over the place. Alongside Gabriel Jesus, the duo combined and made sure that Nathan Ake, Steve Cook and Tyrone Mings were always occupied.
When in possession, the attacking duo looked to exploit any spaces and dart through, whilst out of possession they would press high and look to force them into making mistakes. That style led to Ake’s yellow card and put him under pressure for the rest of the game.
Sterling too scored the winner, doing superbly well to step back as everyone rampaged forwards and find himself in space in a packed penalty box before looping a smart finish over Asmir Begovic to send the crowd wild.
The former Liverpool man did have many of the weaknesses which have blighted his game though. Dispossessed on three occasions and with three poor touches leading to a loss of possession, Sterling still has to work on the basics of his game.
His finishing too could do with improvement. Of his four shots, only two were on target, much like his passing which had a woeful 65.6% completion ratio, the lowest of any Manchester City player.
His late red card, seeing two yellow cards in injury time, was unfortunate. Mike Dean adjudged Sterling to have excessively celebrated his 97th minute winner, ignoring all notions of common sense. Frustrating for City fans and Sterling in particular, he will be hoping that Guardiola gives him another shot after he serves his suspension for a tie against Liverpool next weekend.
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