Raheem Sterling is Starring For Manchester City
Manchester City are still in the mix for the Premier League title. Even after a slight stumble in December, they still are within reach of Liverpool with a chance to defend their crown. One of the main reasons for last year’s success and this season’s title defence is the improvement of Raheem Sterling. The 24-year-old winger has found the final product his game was missing and has become one of the most dangerous attackers in England’s top flight.
Raheem Sterling is Starring for Manchester City
Raheem Sterling broke into the Premier League as an 18-year-old with Liverpool. He was a talented youngster filled with pace and potential and was a part of their lethal attack in the 2013/14 season that finished with 101 goals and second position in the league.
His speed and shiftiness was always apparent. The one drawback to his game was a lack of precision in the final third. The final pass or clinical finish seemed to elude the youngster. Sterling was so effective at putting himself in good positions, or creating opportunities with his movement, but he often fell short when it came time for the final ball. He had just 18 goals in 95 appearances for the Reds. However, despite the criticism over his lack of end product, the England international was soon part of one of the biggest transfers in Premier League history.
Big Money, Big Expectations
In the summer of 2015, Manchester City spent £63 million to bring Raheem Sterling in from Liverpool. The large transfer fee meant that the expectations on the speedy winger would be a heavy burden on his shoulders. He did not have the smoothest transition from a young player with potential, to a star player at a big club. His first two seasons in the blue of Manchester were underwhelming, to say the least. Then he found himself struggling for production and confidence as England performed poorly at Euro 2016. After a bad showing on the international stage, the questions about Sterling began to resurface. Was he worth all that money City spent? Can he reach his potential? Does he have the skill to produce when it matters, or is he just another speedy player with little else to contribute?
A Pep in His Step
With all the criticism surrounding him, how he responded after Euro 2016 would prove vital to the direction Raheem Sterling would take his career next. Not only was he facing questions about his on-field performance, but also daily attacks about how he lived his life as well. Success on the pitch was the only remedy. Enter Pep Guardiola.
Renowned as one of the greatest managers in European football, Guardiola took over at Manchester City in the summer of 2016. In his first season in charge, City would finish third. Sterling was still looking for his scoring boots, tallying only seven goals in 33 Premier League appearances. His aggression and confidence was growing throughout the season, but the end product still was not there.
Last season, things all began to come together. Manchester City had a record-breaking year, and Raheem Sterling finally found the end product his game had been missing. He continued to use his pace and instincts to find great positions on the pitch, but now he was finally finishing at a high level. Sterling would finish the 2017/18 campaign with 18 goals and 11 assists. He was brilliant on the wing for the high octane Manchester City squad. He was also the only player in the league in the top five in both goals and assists. Only three other players had double digits in both categories. The overall firepower of that title winning squad overshadowed just how good the England international was.
Sterling has carried over his strong form into this season. He is still a blur when he takes off on runs or when he has the ball at his feet. However, now his skill is shining brightly as well. The improvement in vision, dribbling, and finishing has been remarkable. The abundance of attacking talent around him allows him space and time that he uses to punish opposing defenders. In 20 Premier League appearances, he has ten goals and seven assists. Sterling is once again in the top five in both categories. He plays with a confidence now that he can go by any defender, from anywhere on the pitch. Whether he is weaving through defenses with his quick feet and skillful dribbling, or just running past opponents down the wing, he is a constant threat.
There are no longer questions about reaching his potential, now it is just a question of how far his star can rise. Raheem Sterling has also grown in terms of his toughness, both mentally and physically. His strength on the ball allows him to fight through challenges on the pitch, evading tacklers with ease as he becomes a creative force for Man City. The fortitude to keep working and improving amidst all the doubt and hate he has faced is also admirable. He has proven he can handle the pressures of performing at the highest level. The scary thing is that he hasn’t reached his full potential yet, and he has shown the willingness to continue working on his game. Despite all the early struggles and constant criticism, Raheem Sterling has risen from an exciting prospect loaded with potential, to one of the best attacking players in all of England.