Sterling Progress: How Raheem has become one of the PL's best

FROM SCARED TO COLD-BLOODED

Often a case of too much too young can plague players careers in this country, yet there seems to be no slowing Raheem Sterling’s progression under Pep Guardiola.

Scorer of two goals as well as providing two assists in his side’s emphatic 6-1 victory over Southampton on Sunday afternoon, his manager was keen to praise his impact in the aftermath of the game.

"In the first season he arrived with the ball, he was scared, he was looking 'who is the guy I'm going to pass the ball to?'"He was not looking thinking 'the 'keeper is there', he's looking where his mates are.

"We spoke about that in training, and said 'try to score goals, it doesn't matter if you miss, be aggressive'."

As ever, it was an honest admission from Guardiola, who now appears to have instilled a killer instinct within the England international. Sterling now relishes having the ball in the final third, with the previous worry of making the wrong decision or hesitating now edging out of his mind.

Raheem Sterling England

GOALS AND DEVELOPMENT

He even broke his duck for England in the previous international break with a ruthless, decisive goal against Spain, taking one touch to set himself on the counter attack before lashing the ball into the top corner past David De Gea.

When Sterling moved from Liverpool to Manchester City for £50m back in 2015, there was criticism in some quarters who questioned whether or not he would be a regular at the Etihad. Not only has he become a regular at City, but he is one of the team’s most important players, scoring six goals and providing five assists in nine Premier League appearances.

Only Sergio Aguero has scored more goals for City since Sterling signed for the club and still only 23, there is plenty of time for him to continue to get better and better. Thierry Henry often speaks of how Guardiola taught him how to play football all over again and there is the sense that he has done the same for Sterling.

His intelligence has improved tenfold, with the timing of his runs and movement of them improving with its simplicity. He has also shown his adaptability this term, being switched between both the right and left flanks depending on whether Leroy Sane or Riyad Mahrez is in the starting XI.

Raheem Sterling Manchester City Liverpool Premier League

EARNING A NEW DEAL

Sterling has reportedly made a verbal agreement with City over a new contract worth £300,000-a-week, which in the current market is bizarrely what he is probably now worth.

Both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are on contracts at their respective clubs of a similar value, yet neither have had the same level of production as the winger this season. Sanchez got his second assist of the season at the weekend and has scored just once, while Ozil has three goals and one assists.

There’s a very reasonable case that none of them should be making such extortionate money, yet in the current climate that is the conglomerate Premier League, Sterling appears well within his rights to demand such funds. If City didn’t give it to him, somebody else certainly would’ve, particularly given his status as a homegrown player in England.

Since Guardiola came to City in 2016, Sterling’s career has been on the rise, particularly since the start of the 2016/17 campaign where he put his nightmare Euro 2016 tournament with England behind him. He was England’s most under-fire player from that competition, but is now completely unrecognisable from the ‘scared’ individual that looked to be playing without any confidence for his country.

Sterling’s potential is now being realised and playing under Guardiola will only help the trajectory of the levels he could reach. With 24 goals in his last 42 Premier League appearances, his reputation for being wasteful in front of goal and indecisive in the final third is slowly but surely changing.

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