Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling has had his best season ever since turning professional, and seems to finally be on his way to realising his potential, but he has still not been without his critics.
With 23 goals to his name, you would think that such a total would provide him with some breathing space from the scrutiny that seems to have always followed him – that has not been the case
His 18 strikes in the Premier League so far is a very good return but fans, pundits and writers have still criticised him for not being prolific enough.
When you think about it they are right in a way. He certainly could be more clinical in front of goal – there have been many occasions this term where he has failed to hit the target from close range or has tickled the goalkeeper with a tame effort, or lacked the composure to score in a one-on-one situation.
Manchester City fans, as loyal and supportive as they are, do get frustrated by this themselves, but some perspective is required.
A question; would you rather see your player getting into promising positions and missing now and again, or would you sooner see said player completely cut out of a game, exerting little to no influence at all?
Yes Sterling’s ball-striking at this point in his career is still not so hot, but the ex-Liverpool man has still mustered the amount of goals that he has, so is it really such a bad thing that he isn’t Thierry Henry just yet? Need there be such vitriol, or is it just another negative Sterling narrative again?
The fact is Sterling has been having the art of final third attack positioning drummed into him by Pep Guardiola, and it’s been making up for that lack of clinical edge, which will come – City fans would certainly hope – later down the line.
It has allowed him to get into the penalty area and wreak havoc, and someetimes finish off those sweeping moves started by the likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane.
Occasionally he misses. No bother. For Sterling has shown multiple times this season that he will continue to get in there to give himself the chance of scoring – a bit like with Mo Salah at Liverpool. The difference there is that the Egyptian’s finishing IS clinical now and that’s why he has posted the incredible numbers he has.
Against West Ham at the weekend, the England winger was a constant threat in the final third, and ended the game with no less than three assists to his name. He had chances himself again, but no goals. It didn’t matter. He was in there being productive in other ways.
For now it just needs to be accepted that Sterling’s finishing still needs work. But what should be the focus is that he still strives to get in there to score or assist, undeterred by previous failings.
Of course it helps that he is playing in a team brimming with attacking quality. There are players in the side who can spare his blushes, and that’s only another reason why it’s not such a big deal right now that he doesn’t finish like Henry or Salah. He can afford to miss. This is still his time to practise and to hone – a learning curve for the still only 23-year-old.
He might well have had at least 30 in all competitions so far, but his goal involvement tally of 29 (18 goals along with 11 assists) in the Premier League is fantastic going, and his manager will surely be thrilled with that.