In Focus: Southgate's trust can restore Sterling value

Luke Bissett
LiveScore
Raheem Sterling has started just two Premier League games for Manchester City this season but remains a key part of the England squad
Raheem Sterling has started just two Premier League games for Manchester City this season but remains a key part of the England squad

Raheem Sterling was England’s star man in the summer — but he cannot force his way into Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side.

The winger is yet to start back-to-back Premier League games for the reigning champions this season and has been ousted by £100million man Jack Grealish.

Ahead of an important international break for the Three Lions, we look at whether Sterling’s City conundrum could be affecting his international prospects too.

False nine

Sterling has become a victim of Guardiola’s reluctance to field a recognised striker.

Sergio Aguero departed the Etihad in the summer after 10 years in Manchester and City elected not to replace him.

Instead, Guardiola has reverted to the system that he used in spells when the Argentine hitman was injured, with a false nine leading the line.

Sterling was deployed in the role in City’s 2-0 defeat to Paris-Saint Germain in the Champions League but failed to impact the game, suggesting it is not his strongest position.

The majority of the winger’s minutes so far this season have come through the middle, rather than as a wide forward where he has previously shown himself to be more effective.

City capacity

Raheem Sterling has been unable to make a single position his own at Manchester City this season
Raheem Sterling has been unable to make a single position his own at Manchester City this season

City have an abundance of attacking talent and there are no guaranteed starters in their front three.

The Premier League champions boast Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Grealish, as well as Sterling, in the forward positions.

The former Liverpool man has only started two of City’s opening seven Premier League games and did not start their Champions League opener against RB Leipzig either.

His influence on the English champions has certainly waned in recent years — scoring half as many Premier League goals last season (10) as he did during the 2019-20 campaign (20) — while Grealish’s summer arrival has also caused Sterling’s game time to plummet.

So much so, cash-strapped Barcelona have even been linked with an audacious January move.

The Blaugrana aren’t blessed with top-quality attacking options at the moment and the summer exits of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann have left Martin Braithwaite leading the line alongside Premier League flops Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong.

It is little surprise that a move for someone with the top-level experience of Sterling is of interest.

Euros exploits

Raheem Sterling's shot map shows he is predominantly shooting from the left-hand side of the box but struggling to hit the target
Raheem Sterling's shot map shows he is predominantly shooting from the left-hand side of the box but struggling to hit the target

It was not long ago that Sterling was the Three Lions’ standout player at the summer’s European Championships.

Southgate put all his trust in the 26-year-old — despite a difficult second half of the season with City — and was duly rewarded.

The winger became only the second player in history to score each of England’s first three goals at a major tournament.

With four goal involvements in the competition, he even earned a place in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament.

Southgate assurance

Raheem Sterling's Premier League and Champions League output makes for worrying reading
Raheem Sterling's Premier League and Champions League output makes for worrying reading

Despite his troubles at club level, Sterling has one of the two spots alongside Harry Kane in England’s front three nailed down.

He has scored five goals in his last 11 international appearances and has the full backing of England manager Southgate.

Speaking about Sterling, Southgate said: “I do think he doesn’t really get the recognition he deserves.

“He often goes under the radar and almost seems to have to continually prove himself.”

The Three Lions boss has cultivated an almost club-like atmosphere within the England camp, regularly sticking with players who perform for him, regardless of their recent form.

Jordan Pickford, Kieran Trippier and Eric Dier are just three examples from his tenure.

The City forward will be grateful for his manager’s trust and, in exchange, Southgate will hope to see Sterling bring his best form back to the table sooner rather than later.

Tags

EnglandManchester CityPremier LeagueRaheem Sterling
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