Raheem Sterling’s first season at Manchester City was beyond frustrating for the player, as well as the fans. He also couldn’t do much for England at the Euro 2016. However, based on what we’ve seen him do in his pre-season for Guardiola, and in the matches so far, he surely seems to have become a principle factor in Guardiola’s Manchester City squad.
To be fair, nobody in the England team at the Euros deserved any praise and it was a complete failure as a team. However, perhaps nobody in that team received as much criticism as Sterling did. He stepped into the tournament as a player who had failed at his club, and the fact that he couldn’t do well in the Euros, only made him easy prey for the critics.
Disastrously enough for him, he was booed by the English supporters, and for that to happen at such a level, it’s a wonder as to how he has managed to keep his confidence intact. Sterling was a player who was any defender’s nightmare, back at Liverpool, and now he looked like he had slumped into an all-time low.
A good manager is the very foundation of a strong team, and a strong team is formed by strong players. Since Pep has taken control, Sterling has unleashed himself on the field. In fact, during an interview, he even mentioned how Pep called him up and encouraged him during the Euro 2016.
Sterling seems to have established a comfortable relationship between him and Pep. When the season started, Sterling had to compete for a starting spot with new signings Nolito, Leroy Sane and Oleksandr Zinchenko, but he has truly fought for his spot. Having featured in both City games for full 90 minutes so far, it looks like Sterling’s days of frustration are long gone.
Sterling was in full power against Sunderland. He had an impressive work-rate as well as quality. He appears to be at ease with Guardiola’s high-pressing system.
Manchester City’s 5-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest was also an indication of him getting back to his best. He started on the right-hand side of their attack, and yet, he was right amidst all the action of their thrilling attacking performance. The England international looked good against Stoke City as well, as he helped his side to a comfortable 4-1 win over the Potters.
Guardiola has high standards when it comes to his attacking players. He prefers them winning the ball high up the pitch and using that momentum, to effectively transition it back into an attack.In that regard, Sterling has been excellent. He also made a run for his second assist of the night when he passed Nolito’s cross into Aguero’s path for Manchester City’s second goal right before half-time.
However, one area that Sterling will need to work on, is his confidence. The media and critics will be ruthless, and they will target any player as soon as they get the slightest chance, but then it really depends on the confidence of the player. Maybe he could learn a thing or two from his teammate Sergio Aguero – who missed two consecutive penalties, but then ended up scoring a hat-trick, in that intense pressure.
Manchester City will be hoping that Sterling’s confidence and his abilities grow further under Guardiola.
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