World Cup 2022: ‘He looks a little lost’ – should England stick with Raheem Sterling?

MOTD2 analysis

We’ve been here before: on the eve of a major tournament, with debate raging over whether Raheem Sterling deserves his place in the England squad.

While his record at international level and in major finals remains impressive, his collective form for Chelsea does not particularly support his World Cup participation just two weeks away.

Sterling has scored twice in the Champions League since the start of September but, after failing to hit a shot in Sunday’s defeat at Arsenal, he has now gone 596 minutes without a goal or assist in the Premier League, a run which dates back to end of August. .

Raheem Sterling scores against Dinamo Zagreb
Sterling scored against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday. He has a total of three goals and two assists for Chelsea in 18 games in the Premier League and Champions League this season.

It hardly helps that he didn’t have a set role, either. Whether at full-back, winger or striker, Blues manager Graham Potter is unsure how to get the best out of the 27-year-old, or even what his best position is.

“I still rate Raheem very highly but he looks a bit lost,” said former England defender Micah Richards, who watched Sterling against the Gunners for MOTD2.

“It’s like he’s a bit frustrated with Chelsea’s set-up and, tactically, he doesn’t know what they want him to do.”

A big move – then a new manager

Thomas Tuchel and Raheem Sterling
Tuchel said “we have made our first priority signing” after Chelsea sealed a deal for Sterling. He was fired 54 days later

Losing his way was not the scenario Sterling envisioned when he planned his £50million move from Manchester City to Stamford Bridge in July.

Sterling had been watched by Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and Bayern Munich but was clearly impressed from the vision of then manager Thomas Tuchel, and also the role he outlined for him in his team.

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Less than two months later, however, Tuchel was history. Potter is now planning Chelsea’s future, but his frequent formation and tactical changes suggest he is unsure of how best to use many members of his new squad, including Sterling.

“Rahim joined another top club in Chelsea and it seemed like the perfect move for him,” added Richards. “But then they changed managers and we all saw the upheaval that followed.

“Once a manager signs you and says you’re his top guy, like Tuchel did with Sterling, it must be frustrating when a new manager comes in and wants to use you differently.

“Every player just wants to have some stability. I think he’s in good hands with Potter – let’s be clear – but it’s up to him to get the best out of Sterling now.”

“Get Sterling’s ball near the goal”

Chart showing Chelsea vs Arsenal starting XI: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Cucurella, Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Sterling, Havertz, Mount, Havertz, Aubameyang
Sterling played on the right wing against Arsenal but managed just two touches inside the Gunners’ area

Sterling scored 131 goals in 339 games for City, his trademark reaching to finish a sweeping pass at the back post.

He has been much less productive since joining Chelsea – probably because he has far fewer chances in front of goal.

Manchester City 2021-22 Chelsea 2022-23
40.1 Minutes per shot 56.5
49% In the target % 39%
22.8% % conversion 16.7%
175.9 Minutes per goal 339

“The reason he was so effective at City was because he was part of a system that worked,” Richards explained. “He knew the system and he fit it because the runs he made were exactly what the team needed.

“City also played the same way, dominating the ball with 70-80% possession, every week, but now they are in a team in transition after the change of manager and seem to be changing shape all the time.

“The whole team is still figuring out how he plays under Potter, so Sterling isn’t the only one who has to sort that out.

“Using him in different positions hasn’t helped. Ideally I want to see him high and wide on the pitch, preferably on the left, so he can go either inside or outside when running into the box.

“But whatever you call his role, you want him on the ball near the goal, not in his own half having to run 60 or 70 yards to get a shot.

“For City, he always got the ball into the opposition half. When he made his runs into the area, he knew the ball was coming because of the players they had in their squad to deliver him.

“That doesn’t happen when you play for Chelsea – he has to create things himself.”

Should it start against Iran?

Raheem Sterling celebrates his goal for England against Croatia at Euro 2020
Sterling scored three goals at Euro 2020 against Croatia, the Czech Republic and Germany, with two of them proving to be winners as England reached the final.

Sterling also struggled in the lead-up to last year’s European Championship, when his goals fell short for City and he was benched for their biggest games.

Southgate remained loyal, however, and Sterling reciprocated by scoring three goals to help England reach the final and earn himself a place in the team of the tournament.

Will the Three Lions boss do the same this time when he picks his squad to face Iran in their opener in Qatar on November 21?

“You want your players to be fit, of course, but I think Gareth will stick with him this time as well, and I can see why after what he’s done for him in the past,” Richards said.

“All season he hasn’t been playing well, but at least he’s playing a lot, which is what he wanted when he left City.

“I would also start him against Iran, as part of a front three with Boukayo Saka and Harry Kane. He deserves that credit, after what he has done for England in the past.

“Let’s see how he does in the first game and we’ll evaluate after that. If it doesn’t do anything, then maybe it’s time to rotate.

“But we’ve seen in the past how Raheem has responded after taking the tally for England and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him remind everyone how good he is.”

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