The rise of Raheem Sterling under Pep Guardiola

Sterling |FI

Top 10 features the top ten stories from the previous month from across the footballing world. The featured articles may be about a massive headline or a result from the previous month, or a culmination of a particular story that needs to definitely be noticed and discussed about. This feature is to bring a different flavor to the breaking news we see and talk to others about and aimed at constructively looking at the point in discussion. The stats used in the article below are accurate as of November 30, 2017.

Not very long ago, Pep Guardiola wanted to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and for that deal to happen, Arsene Wenger wanted Raheem Sterling in return along with the money in what seemed to be quite lucrative for the London club. However, the move did not materialize as Guardiola did not want to lose the young English winger and both the players stayed at their respective camps.

Raheem Sterling came into spotlight under current Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers in his stint at Liverpool in 2013-14 season where they finished second to Manchester City. Starting his football career at the QPR academy, Sterling was signed by the Liverpool academy back in 2010 for a free of just 600,000 pounds. Sterling made his debut in the Premier League in the 2011-12 season on March 24 against Wigan Athletic. He was just 17 years and 107 days old at that time as he became the third youngest player to have played for the club.

In the following season he made a good number of appearances for an 18-year old however his breakthrough season came in the 2013-14 season.  Liverpool were chasing for the title under Brendan Rodgers and the chances were realistic until Manchester City snatched the title from Liverpool’s grip. Employed as the left winger in the 4-3-3, Sterling relished playing alongside Sturridge and Suarez in the famous trident, ‘SSS’.

After a rift between the manager and the player owing to the contract issues, Sterling decided to move to Manchester who paid a whopping 49 million pounds for then 20-year old English player. Often criticized for his poor end products, Sterling was regularly getting the sticks at the Etihad by many after his form had dipped. In Manchester, he was never able to reach that 11 goal mark for the season which he scored in his time at Liverpool.

He was heavily criticized given that he moved for a huge sum of money being a very young player and also for the reason that he snubbed certain set of Liverpool fans who thought that he will be one of their own. His dip in form for City was celebrated by almost every Liverpool fan and he needed someone like a father figure to guide him.

When Pep Guardiola came to Manchester City in the summer 2016, he made revitalizing Sterling his first of many priorities at the Etihad. In his first season, Sterling was often used a conventional winger as he switched between the flanks in games since the full backs at Guardiola’s disposal were not of the level he needed. However this season, with the presence of pacey full backs who can overlap on the outside, Sterling has been allowed to cut inside.

Talking about his goal scoring prowess this season, “I think Raheem is enjoying scoring goals. He’s not scared, he’s not afraid to take a risk,” said the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager. When asked about his improvement in finishing Pep said that, he is putting in extra hours to improve his final balls and he also added that he is receiving special coaching in this front from Mikel Arteta.

“Mikel Arteta is working many hours and days after training specifically about the last action on the pitch – that control in the last moment to make the right movement in the final three or four meters.” – the Catalan said on the 22-year old’s training with Mikel Arteta.

Pep Guardiola has played a hugely significant role in Sterling’s monumental rise as he has become ‘The Father Figure’. Just from the video below we can identify how Pep has deeply involved with Sterling, teaching him about the movements he can make and occupy spaces.

This season Sterling has looked more confident in the final third and all the praise should be handed to the manager who has upped the morale of the player. He has never given up on the 22-year old and has defended him like no other. And Sterling has proved his manager right by repaying the faith kept on him by Guardiola with a number of clutch goals in the recent weeks.


As it can be understood that his goal scoring spree is on another level from the stats thus far, Sterling is the leading goal scorer for City with 13 goals (9 goals in Premier League and 4 goals in Champions League). On his goals Pep commented, “You see Raheem Sterling scores a lot of goals, that is good for him. He is scoring important goals and that is so important for a winger or a striker. But he is young and he still can improve.”

His performances from last season have improved heavily as he has developed in all departments. The template on xG chain below gives us the comparison between Sterling’s performances from the last season to that of this season, (2016/17 – blue, 2017/18 – red). This shows a phenomenal increase in all aspects and the most important stat is the increase in xG 90 from 0.28 to 0.48.


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Image Credits: StatsBomb

Last season most of his goals were meaningless. In many cases, he would be on the score sheet in which City would’ve registered 4 or 5 goals. This season, however, his goals have become quite more important than most of the other players. This can be identified from many games such as his late goal in the 96th minute which gave City a crucial 2-1 win against Bournemouth. Also the equalizer in the dying minutes against Everton at home spoke volumes of his presence inside the box in the important moments. More recently, his winner against Southampton at the Etihad sparked wild celebrations in the City camp as their winning run was unscathed.

He finished off things very late at Napoli in the 4-2 win and also scored the only goal in the 1-0 win against Feyenoord at home in the Champions League. He already has 4 goals in the Champions League and one can only expect him to add more to his tally as City are expected to go a long way in Europe this time. In the last game in the month of November, Sterling scored the 95th minute winner at home against the Saints which kept their winning streak running.

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Image courtesy: BleacherReport

November of 2017 so far has been the best month in Sterling’s career at City as he has scored 4 crucial goals and bagged three Man of the Match awards from six games in all competitions.

In the space of few months’ time, Raheem Sterling has evolved into a goal scoring winger with excellent returns in the final third while also proving to be an outlet for Guardiola’s side in the flanks along with German youngster Leroy Sane. The performances in the last month in particular have been of the highest quality and Sterling’s rise under Guardiola benefits both Man City and the English national side with the World Cup coming up in 2018. Gareth Southagate will be hoping that the winger is able to carry his form to the national side, something many stars have failed to do so in the past. Right now though, ‘Raz’ is enjoying the benefits of playing in a Pep Guardiola system and so are Manchester City themselves.