Last season, Raheem Sterling established himself as a world-class player by winning the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and assisting Manchester City to capture the domestic treble. Recently, manager Pep Guardiola challenged Sterling to raise his game to another level.
“When he’s in front of the goal, he puts it in the net. So, he can do it, yeah. He scored 25 last season, and 25 to 30 is only five goals. So he can do it.”
Guardiola made this statement following the back-to-back Premier League champions’ controversial 2-2 draw against Tottenham. In the match, the 2014 Golden Boy award winner scored a target man’s goal with a header to the far post. In two matches the 24-year-old has four goals, he scored a hat trick at West Ham in City’s first Premier League of the season. If you count the FA Community Shield, Sterling has scored five goals in three matches this season.
The challenge the two-time Champions League winning manager put in front of Sterling shouldn’t be difficult. As Guardiola stated, the England international scored 25 goals in all competitions last season so to go up by five isn’t a big task. What the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season member should be reaching for is to score at least 20 goals in the Premier League. Last year, Sterling scored 17 goals in 34 appearances and the year before he scored 18 in 33 appearances. In this decade, an average of three players score at least 20 goals in the Premier League yearly so to reach that threshold is a huge accomplishment.
Citizens’ striker Sergio Aguero has scored at least 20 goals in the league six times in the last eight seasons and shows no signs of slowing down with two goals in the first two matches of the season. Two sets of teammates have scored at least 20 goals in the Premier League this decade. Last season, Liverpool forwards Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah shared the PL’s golden boot with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when they all scored 22 goals. The other occasion happened in 2013-14 when Liverpool once again had Luis Suarez, 31 goals and the PL golden boot, and Daniel Sturridge, 21 goals and second in the league. Sterling had nine goals and five assists that year in his breakout campaign with the Reds.
The 2018-19 Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year’s game isn’t all about goals though. In the last two Premier League seasons he’s accumulated 21 assists and his manager appreciates his versatility in the final third.
“He is in his first days playing as a striker but for me striker will be an incredible position for him, but he can play in three positions up front.”
At his age, Sterling is in the midst of entering his prime and is durable by making at least 30 appearances in the Premier League for the last seasons. By scoring 20 goals in the league this season, he’ll show that he should be mentioned among the best in the world.