Raheem Sterling’s 2021/22 season has yet to catch fire at Manchester City.
His exploits at Euro 2020 thrust him into the global spotlight, his national hero status being established as Gareth Southgate’s side carried the skeletons in the Three Lions closet to reach a first major tournament final since more than half a century.
During the second half of last season, the 26-year-old captained City on several occasions as they regained the Premier League title and retained the Carabao Cup but lost their guaranteed starting status.
Pep Guardiola recalled Sterling for the Champions League final against Chelsea, but it proved to be an unforgettable outing for all concerned at Porto.
About a month later he became the go-to man when England needed to retire from the ground and it was Sterling who helped the nation win throughout the campaign until final defeat on penalties against Italy.
It was his semi-final performance against Denmark that drew rave reviews across the board as he helped lead the Three Lions across the line, tormenting defenders and winning an extra-time penalty that was slammed home on the rebound by Harry Kane.
“One of the greatest displays I’ve seen of a player wearing an England shirt. Superb,” Gary Lineker said of Raheem’s performance afterwards.
Sterling started on the left of an attacking three with Kane in the lead, but on numerous occasions he swapped positions within the front three as the Tottenham striker slumped to dictate the attacks.
In the win over Kasper Hjulmand’s side, he performed six shot-creating actions on his own and three assists that led to shots. He completed eight of an astounding 13 dribbles in the 120 minutes.
Comparing that to this season, Sterling has only made two Premier League starts for City, including one in the goalless draw against Southampton where he had his most productive game with four shot-creating action and two assists that led to Saints’ shots on goal. .
City’s wealth of talent in the wide areas has made it difficult for him to find a place, but the middle man in the front three is often cut and changed.
Adaptation and evolution is needed in Sterling’s game in order to fold into the central striker role under Guardiola and regain his place in the first XI.
Ahead of last weekend’s clash with Liverpool, the manager discussed a potential switch for the striker.
“Raheem played very well as a striker in the last game against PSG. He created incredible spaces for all of us,” Guardiola said.
“He created a special clear chance that [Gianluigi] Donnarumma was outstanding saving and another down the left with the moves he had, which we needed in that specific game. the [use of] space, quality, movements and speed from zero to 100 he did exceptionally well.
“He can play there [on the right] but at the start of the Gabby season [Gabriel Jesus] played very well there. [We need] guys [who are good at] one-on-ones like Jack [Grealish] and Riad [Mahrez], which can attract more opponents and PSG players to create spaces in the other areas and we need a guy who runs behind right to left. Raheem is the best we have in the team.
“I would say Raheem can play well on the right, 100 points [the 2017/18 season]played incredibly well on the left with 98 [points in the 2018/19 season]and as a striker he always has the moves to create something for himself in front of goal, like Ferran [Torres].
“Both are so good at making moves behind, especially the way he trained last week, I could see I thought he could put on a good performance and he did.”
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In the opening games of the Premier League season, Guardiola appears to have altered Sterling’s game to manipulate his winning qualities for City, like Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri, who all served in refresh things. returning to the team or having different roles.
Guardiola found success continuing with a false nine rather than an established striker, but City can find their man in the middle if Sterling replicates his exploits in England.
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