The transformation of Raheem Sterling under Pep Guardiola
When Manchester City signed Raheem Sterling for a staggering £5qm, there were Questions asked and eyebrows raised but the 23-year-old English striker has proved his critics wrong.
We are watching a completely different version of Sterling in Manchester City, and to be precise under Pep Guardiola.
In the 2016/17 season, he spent most of the time playing in a wider role. This was because City did not have quality attacking full-backs, so he and Leroy Sané had to provide the width. The arrival of Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy has allowed Sterling to play a more central role and attack the opposition's centre-backs.
The England international is a player who likes to dribble and cut inside the opposition’s defence but that’s a quality that almost every striker position possesses, isn’t it? Under Guardiola, Sterling has added a new dimension to his game and that is passing and team play.
Passing has been the stand out feature of every team that Pep has managed, who can forget the Tiki-Taka style of Barcelona? Sterling has added that to his game and his link up with Sané, De Bruyne, David Silva, Sergio Aguero & Gabriel Jesus has become almost telepathic.
Another dimension that he has added to his game is the ability to provoke fouls. “Getting Fouled” doesn’t mean diving; it is about genuinely getting fouled by the opposition player, a quality that the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar possess.
Sterling, before playing under Guardiola used to lose possession a lot in the final third, but that has improved and he often finds himself in 1 v 1 situations where the opposition player has had to resort to extreme means of stopping him. Due to this improvement, he has won 2 important penalties for Manchester City against Arsenal and Huddersfield.
There was a video doing the rounds on social media last month of Guardiola showing Sterling what to do when he receives a pass with his back to goal. Guardiola instructed the 23-year-old to make a run in behind when he releases possession rather than wait for a return pass.
This what Guardiola had to say when asked about Raheem Sterling - “If he would be a guy with a little bit more sense of the goal, he would be one of the most incredible players.”
“At the moment it feels like he is the main man for us,” ?lkay Gündo?an said of Sterling after City’s victory over Southampton, which is a huge compliment given he plays for a team which has big names such as Silva, De Bruyne, Sané, Aguero and Jesus. Given the timing of his goals and the points they have won, it is hard to disagree with Gundogan.
Sterling has scored crucial goals for the Citizens this season; an 82nd-minute equalizer against Everton, the 96th-minute winner against Bournemouth, an 88th-minute winner against Feyenoord and then an 84th-minute winner at Huddersfield Town.
Sterling’s versatility and decisiveness make him the ideal player in a Guardiola side. With his run of good form, City is flying high on the league table and the former QPR trainee is a key man for the Premier League title favourites.
There are rumours that City will be offering a new deal to the young English forward and this is not at all surprising considering his fine form in the final third for City.
When Guardiola arrived at City, everyone knew that Sterling would be the man who would benefit the most.
Versatile, decisive and always dangerous in the opposition box, the main takeaway of this season is that he is playing better than he ever has done before and remains key to Manchester City’s league and continental success aspirations.
Both Sterling and Pep Guardiola deserve full credit for the former’s incredible transformation.