Raheem Sterling, the eyes of the world are upon you.
After Manchester City and Liverpool agreed a £49m transfer in July, the youngster became the most expensive English footballer of all time. I don’t need to remind you of all the hype. Clearly, when a player moves for such a fee, there is tremendous pressure heaped upon them, not to mention intense scrutiny from pundits and fans. With Sterling’s new club lifting the curtain on their new season live on Sky Sports away at West Brom, it was the perfect opportunity for City’s new number 7 to hit the ground running and show that he’s worth every penny of that gargantuan fee.
After all the anticipation, it took over 4 minutes for Sterling to get his first touch in the Premier League as a Citizen; in the midst of a misunderstanding with full-back Aleksander Kolarov. As it was after the unfortunate tumble against Roma on this debut, the resentment of certain Liverpool fans towards their former hero was blatant, their jeers and barbs filling Twitter timelines across the country. ‘Raheem’s a flop!’ ‘$terling ain’t worth 49p!’ They were soon silenced.
The winger was a constant threat throughout, hitting a top speed of 32.44km/h at the Hawthorns, making him the fastest man on the pitch. City skipper and goal-scorer Vincent Kompany admitted that Sterling is ‘a new tool for us to use this season, giving us a speed that we need to hurt teams when we are defending.’ Indeed, despite his side not having a great deal of defending to do, the new man was involved in both first half goals.
As we move from the ‘SAS’ of Sterling and Sturridge at Liverpool to Sterling and Silva at Manchester City, the combination of the latter was a pleasure to watch. With Sterling naturally drifting inside to link up with Silva, full-back Kolarov was given much more space to exploit down the flanks. This played a part in the second goal, with the new midfield partnership trading no fewer than seven passes between them in the build up. The ability to get Kolarov in behind the opposition back four is likely to bring City plenty of joy in the season ahead, with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony loitering in the six yard box.
The Sterling and Silva relationship is one that could flourish in the coming months, with Sterling playing a total of 46 short passes throughout the game, receiving 16 alone from the diminutive Spaniard. With the return of a fully fit Aguero next week, the City line-up is proving lively and formidable.
Manuel Pellegrini has described his new acquisition as ‘the complete striker’. Praise indeed from the gaffer, but I think the rest of us still need some convinving. Finishing is certainly an aspect of Sterling’s game that needs improvement. Clean through in the first half after a sumptuous through ball from Silva, Sterling fluffed his lines, hitting the ball straight at Boaz Myhill. Another decent chance was wasted just after half-time, highlighting his lack of potency infront of goal. That said, we’ll always give him that screamer against Italy.
£49m for Raheem Sterling may well turn out to be a worthwhile deal for Manchester City, but unless he improves his poor record of a goal every 391 minutes for his former club, never reaching double figures for a season, his new club may not claim silverware this season. Pellegrini has made it clear that improvement is expected of the youngster, but, based on the first MNF of the season, Sterling is in a side that possesses enough quality to help him achieve his potential. Watch this space.