Once failing to meet the fans’ expectations, but now, Raheem Sterling is proving to be the number one hope in Chelsea’s attack. At 29 years old, it’s time for the English player to become a true leader. In the summer of 2022, Sterling became Chelsea’s first signing under new owner Todd Boehly for £47.5 million. In his first season at Stamford Bridge, the 1994-born forward disappointed True Blues with only 9 goals and 4 assists in 38 appearances.
On average, Sterling needs more than 4 matches to score a goal. This is an unacceptable statistic for a player with 10 years of experience in the Premier League like Chelsea’s new number 17. Moreover, £47.5 million is not a cheap price.
According to Football Insider, there were times when the London club wanted to sell Sterling. The Blues’ leadership was believed to have made a mistake in recruiting him from Manchester City. But that’s just a story of the past. At the moment, Sterling is the number one hope in Chelsea’s attack.
Sterling shines again after a forgettable season at Chelsea
In this year’s season, the Jamaican winger began to catch people’s attention from the match… a 1-3 defeat against West Ham United in the 2nd round of the Premier League. Sterling consistently impressed with his speed and daring breakthroughs.
In the match on August 20th, the former Liverpool player successfully completed 6 out of 7 dribbles and was fouled 5 times, including winning a penalty for Chelsea in the 43rd minute, but Enzo Fernandez failed to beat Alphonse Areola.
After the match, even the opponent Michail Antonio of West Ham had praise for Sterling. “This is Raheem’s best performance I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen a player with the ball at his feet run as fast as he does. It’s crazy! Raheem doesn’t deserve this loss!”, Antonio said on BBC.
“Raheem was Chelsea’s brightest star in today’s match. This is his best performance since Euro 2020 ended,” former Man United and Tottenham striker Garth Crooks praised Sterling when commenting on BBC.
Of course, what True Blues are most expecting from the player wearing the number 7 jersey are goals, and they only have to wait for 1 more round to see Sterling “open his account”.
In the latest match, the former Man City star scored a brace against Luton Town, helping Chelsea secure a comfortable 3-0 victory. Immediately, Sterling temporarily became the top scorer in The Blues’ lineup in the 2023/24 Premier League season with 2 goals.
The season has just begun, but the English winger has truly returned to the position of a star. Newcomer Nicolas Jackson “made his debut” with a goal against Luton, but at this moment, Sterling is the most anticipated factor in Chelsea’s attack.
The fans of Stamford Bridge can breathe a sigh of relief seeing the 29-year-old player succeed in improving his form at the start of the 2023/24 season.
The crucial factor that helped Sterling find himself again
Sterling’s poor performance last season wasn’t entirely his fault. The previous season was a chaotic one for the whole Chelsea team, not just for any individual.
The evidence is that considering both temporary and interim managers, The Blues’ players worked with… 4 managers in the 2022/23 season, including: Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter, Bruno Saltor, Frank Lampard.
A season lasting about 10 months, and on average, the Chelsea leadership changed coaches every… just over 3 months. The instability in the managerial position made the players of the London club struggle to adapt to new tactics, and Sterling was no exception. “I was a bit disappointed last season personally. I felt like I always had to play with my back to the goal. I had a conversation with the new manager (Mauricio Pochettino) at the beginning of the week and I know exactly what he needs from me. We had a very open conversation. I really want to thank Pochettino,” Sterling shared about the reasons for his unconvincing performance in the 2022/23 season.
Another expert, Gary Neville, shares a similar opinion. “Raheem performs best in one-on-one situations with defenders or when penetrating the penalty area and causing damage to opponents. That’s how Pep Guardiola changed his style of play. I never thought Raheem could play his best as a central forward or with his back to the goal. He’s not Phil Foden!” the former Man United defender said.
As for head coach Pochettino, when asked about Sterling’s positive change, he said, “Raheem has been given freedom to play. We know what he can do. Raheem has the ability to play in multiple positions.”
A lot can be drawn from these three statements. Firstly, Chelsea’s 4 managers last season couldn’t find a way to use Sterling effectively. They couldn’t harness all of his qualities by constantly asking him to play with his back to the opponent’s goal.
This also means that Pochettino is the first manager at Stamford Bridge who knows how to use Sterling. Now, in this year, or more precisely, in the first 3 matches of The Blues in the 2023/24 Premier League, the Argentine coach only assigned the 1994-born player to one position, as an attacking winger on the right.
Pochettino allows Sterling to operate freely, to make daring breakthroughs and change direction while dribbling. The result is that the number 7 has shown more promising and anticipated performance.
The 51-year-old strategist understands Sterling the best among the managers who have worked with the Jamaican player at Chelsea. Pochettino knows what he needs to do to bring out Sterling’s strengths in his playing style.
Previously, there were doubts about whether the former PSG coach could help the 1994-born star regain his form. In the 5 pre-season matches, Sterling only had 1 assist in the game against Wrexham – a club playing in the 4th tier of English football.
But those 5 matches were just a period for the 29-year-old player to get used to the new playing style that Pochettino applied to Chelsea and also the time he tried to find the best way to use Sterling.
At this point, True Blues fans can be completely assured that the English star feels very comfortable playing under Pochettino’s guidance. Now is the time for Sterling to become the leader in Chelsea’s attack
Sterling has regained his form, but ahead of him are even heavier responsibilities. If not counting Romelu Lukaku – a player who hasn’t been registered with Chelsea’s first team and is said to be joining AS Roma, then Sterling (29 years old) is the 3rd oldest player in The Blues’ squad, only after Thiago Silva (38 years old) and Marcus Bettinelli (31 years old).
Excluding Sterling, the attacking lineup is filled with “young” players like Mykhaylo Mudryk, Nicolas Jackson (22 years old); Noni Madueke, Armando Broja (21 years old), or Mason Burstow (20 years old). Meanwhile, the new star Christopher Nkunku is currently injured and is likely to be sidelined until November.
Even considering Nkunku, all these players have less experience than Sterling when facing Premier League defenders. This year marks the 11th year for the 1994-born player in the highest tier of English football.
At the moment, no forward at Chelsea has more experience than Sterling. Therefore, the Jamaican player’s responsibility is not only to perform well himself, but also to lead and guide his younger teammates. Additionally, Sterling needs to maintain his form to set an example for the younger players.
In the past, the English star never had the opportunity to become a “big brother” in the attacking lineup. When he was with Liverpool, Sterling was just a younger brother to Luis Suarez. Upon moving to Man City, the Jamaican player still had another senior, Kun Aguero. But in Chelsea’s current attack, the number 7 is the elder to all the other players.
In terms of experience and expertise, Sterling has shown and is proving that he is worthy of being the “big brother” in Chelsea’s attack at Stamford Bridge!
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