Why England hero Sterling needs a good Euros to save his Man City career
It's fair to say that Raheem Sterling experienced a tough time of it in 2020/21, with the England international often finding himself on the fringes in the final months of the season.
His form dropped off significantly in 2021, with Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez becoming the preferred options for Pep Guardiola down the flanks.
Despite that fall off in form, Sterling still managed 14 goals and 10 assists in all competitions for his club last year, which was more than Mahrez's 23 goal contributions, but he did underperform his xG in the Premier League by two goals.
In fact, before 2020/21, Sterling had not dipped below an xG + xA tally of 0.85 for three consecutive seasons, but last year it dropped to 0.66, a clear indication that Sterling was not performing at his usual level.
His dribbles may have increased from 1.8 per 90 in 2019/20 to 2.3 last term, but it came at a cost as his shots per 90 dropped from a huge 4.5 down to 2.5.
Guardiola had transformed Sterling into a goal-scoring winger, but he's taken a huge step backwards in the past six months.
After a purple patch in late January and February, in which he scored six goals and assisted two in nine games, Sterling then found the back of the net just once for his club for the remainder of the season - the opener in the 2-1 league defeat to Chelsea.
In his final 16 games of the season, Sterling scored just that once, and grabbed two assists; it was not a happy end to the campaign.
For that reason, Foden and Mahrez became the first choice option for Guardiola, and with Ferran Torres also impressing in his debut campaign, Sterling's time as Man City's main winger is coming to an end. That’s why it's vital he has a good tournament for England to reignite his Man City career.
After scoring the only goal in England’s 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday, it’s fair to say he’s started well.
His selection was frowned upon by many, with claims to start either the in-form Jack Grealish or Marcus Rashford ahead of the Man City winger made all across social media. However, Sterling proved the doubters wrong, and bagged all three points against the team who knocked England out of the 2018 World Cup.
The question is, will he continue to start for Gareth Southgate’s team? The early signs would indicate yes. Southgate trusts him, and as one of the senior players in the squad, he’s likely to be included for his experience of tournament football. However, he’ll need to perform game-in, game-out with the attacking firepower at Southgate’s disposal.
After Ferran Torres looked bright without doing much for Spain against Sweden, and Foden experiencing similar fortunes against Croatia, it’s one-nil to Sterling in the battle between City’s wingers at the Euros.