Analysis

5 Reasons why Raheem Sterling is still important for Manchester City

Raheem-Sterling-Tactical-Analysis

Raheem Sterling became the most expensive English player at the time when Manchester City snapped him from Liverpool. Sterling happily made a switch to Man City citing career growth and winning trophies as the reason behind his transfer. Eventually, Sterling did win many titles for the blues and has so far justified the hefty price that City Football Group paid for his talent.

Since joining City in 2015, former Liverpool star has appeared 202 times in Premier League for Manchester City, scoring 79 goals. He became the only 3rd player to score 100 goals for Pep Guardiola following Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in the list. He was instrumental in Pep Guardiola’s success in England as the attacker helped City win 3 league titles, 1 FA Cup, 4 League Cups, 1 Community Shield, and wrapped up individual awards like Young Player of The Year and FWA Footballer of the Year.

As the things stand currently, Raheem Sterling has observed a major dip in his form, wide attacker has scored just twice in the last 20 games for his club. The emergence of Phil Foden on the left-wing combined with Riyad Mahrez’s brilliant run of form on the right wing has kept him on the sidelines for the majority of the games. Guardiola is still eager to wrap Sterling to a new contract, as his current deal expires at the end of next season and the English man has not denied his wish for minutes and try playing abroad which added more fuel to his transfer to Barcelona rumors.

Sterling is still a world-class player and a unique asset for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. Hence, let us discuss few reasons why Manchester City must try to keep Raheem Sterling at the Etihad beyond this season and more.

RAHEEM STERLING IN HIS PRIME

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Manchester City’s transfer policy has helped them secure players who’d fit in plans for the present as well as the future. Considering when Sterling was brought in as a pacy youngster from Liverpool, he developed his gameplay and went on to become the first name on Guardiola’s team sheet. Raheem Sterling is just 26 years of age and has many years of football ahead of him. City’s current policy makes them extend the contracts for 5 years which means if Manchester City convinces Sterling to stay, he will be committed to the club till he gets past his prime.

Currently, not many attackers in Sterling’s position are in their prime as Foden, Ferran and Grealish are still developing themselves in many aspects of their game. Raheem Sterling along with Mahrez remains the only experienced forward in Manchester City. We all are familiar with how good Sterling can be and finding his ideal replacement will be tougher for City than keeping him. Hence, looking at a futuristic point of view; Raheem Sterling needs to stay with City.

IMMINENT ARRIVAL OF A STRIKER

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Guardiola has faced a lot of criticism from fans and pundits alike due to his failure to sign an ideal replacement for departed Sergio Aguero. To top the lack of striker, Pep Guardiola has opted to use Gabriel Jesus on the right flank leaving himself with no ideal centre-forward. To solve this problem, the Spaniard has opted to use Ferran Torres as a striker and it has worked well as of now. But, this has somewhat hampered Sterling’s performances from the flank.

With Aguero, Sterling used to operate as an inside forward from either side and his off-ball intelligence helped City dismantle opposition defence numerous times. When paired with a striker Sterling has recorded his best season scoring 20 PL goals in 19/20. Even with the national team, Sterling has 6 GA so far. In 2019-20, he had an expected goals ratio of 20.63 and he scored 20 goals. While last season he averaged xG of 11 and scored just 10 goals from it.

Signing a striker is imminent for Manchester City. Their aggressive approach to sign Harry Kane showed how desperate they’re to sign a number 9. As the links with Haaland and Vlahovic grow stronger day by day, a striker is for sure coming at City be it in January or next summer. When a striker comes, it will improve Raheem Sterling’s numbers in front of goal and he will be back in the lineup on a consistent basis.

FITNESS

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Raheem Sterling is one of the fittest names in the whole Manchester City squad. Despite his small stature, he is incredibly strong as compared to other players of his physique. In a squad with injury-prone superstars like Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte, and Gabriel Jesus; Sterling has always maintained his fitness to be ready every time. Raheem Sterling has missed just 14 games since 2015 for Manchester City. If we take a closer look, it is just above 2 games per season. Considering the fact that City plays to win 4 competitions, Sterling has managed to stay fit despite this rigorous schedule of playing for club and country. Fitness has been a major reason behind the successes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and Raheem Sterling’s fitness record is not much behind them.

In the 2019 season, Leroy Sane was sidelined for the entire season and Raheem Sterling’s consistent run of games helped Manchester City to battle throughout the season. Finding a player of such fitness level is a tough task for Manchester City. If he leaves, there are no affordable names in the market as of now. Even world-class forwards like Eden Hazard, Dembele, Gnabry, and Sane have faced plenty of injuries since last few seasons; having a player like Sterling in the ranks is a blessing for Manchester City.

MUCH MORE THAN ‘SPEED’

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Although in his Liverpool days, Sterling was often criticized as a forward who can just run, he has proved his critics wrong since his big-money move towards Manchester City. His all-round development has made him a world-class forward. Sterling was known to be dangerous in one-on-one situations but later became predictable due to his frequent use of pace to dribble past his marker. In Manchester City, Sterling’s movements have been more dynamic, and he has learned to use his low centre of gravity to its merits.

Now Raheem Sterling is often seen attempting blind runs from behind the defenders and his quick diagonal runs inside the box have made him a dangerous player inside the penalty box. Although his finishing isn’t in the ranks of Aguero or Vardy, he has still put up the numbers like them. His positional awareness is now one of the strongest parts of his game. He frequently finds himself in ideal positions to score simple goals. Sterling is not an ideal poacher of the ball, but his ability to be in the most favorable positions for a goal is better than many forwards in the league.

Pep Guardiola has used Raheem on right for a brief time and Sterling didn’t let his manager down either. In 2017/18, the English international managed to score 18 goals and provide 11 assists. In the following season he was used as a left-winger and this time he didn’t put any foot wrong either. Finding himself on the scoresheet 17 times and assisting 10 goals, Sterling established himself as a reliable forward. In the 2019-20 season, Guardiola started using Sterling as an inside forward and he recorded his best goal-scoring tally of 20 goals. Despite the poor form following the season, he still managed 17 goal involvements.

Looking at those numbers, one would hate if a player of his calibre leaves the club. Sterling has displayed impressive performances as a left-winger, right-winger, and even as a left-forward. His positioning is better than many of the strikers in the world and his ability to provide accurate passes isn’t behind many playmakers either.

Sterling in some sense is a much more dynamic and well-rounded player as compared to his City counterparts and Guardiola will be in trouble to hold his attack together if Sterling leaves next season.

LEADERSHIP AND PUBLIC IMAGE

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Raheem Sterling is one of the most capped players in the Premier League. At the age of 21 when most of the youngsters start getting minutes at senior level, Sterling had the experience of 4 years in the Premier League. He is a vocal figure in the dressing room and one of the captains in the England camp.

Sterling has been a leader for the BLM moment in football and has been a strong figure despite getting harsh criticism from media and the public alike. If speaking of personalities, Raheem Sterling is easily one of the strongest public figures in England as well as Europe. Recently he got knighted with MBE and this speaks volumes about his contribution to society.

A strong personality like Sterling is necessary for any manager to have in the dressing room. City has a vast array of youngsters ready to step in the first team and guidance from an experienced personality like Sterling could benefit them in the long run.

Modern football is slightly more than just on-field performance and hence all these factors should be considered before deciding on Raheem Sterling’s future.

I believe he is a world-class forward and has a strong personality. Getting back in form is just a matter of time for Sterling and hence, Manchester City should do everything possible to keep him at the Etihad Stadium.

         
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