Thursday, 23 July 2015

Why Sterling will be a great signing for City

After Raheem Sterling's first match in sky blue, Sterling's football talent finally took the mic away from his agent after months of talking in City's preseason win over Roma. Although just a friendly, Sterling showed why City paid as much as they did for him and why he will be a catalyst for their title challenge this season.

In a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground, all eyes were on Sterling. On his first touch of the ball apart from the kick off, boos rang around the stadium and it seemed to surprise Sterling as much the commentators as he tripped over the ball. He got straight back up though and carried on with business and won a corner. A few minutes later Iheanacho gave City the chance to counter attack and split the Roma defence with a sublime ball to Sterling. Sterling had the option to square it across goal to a partner but took his chance and scored his first City goal. Pjanic would go on moments later to score a stunner. Iheanacho would go onto equalise for City after a majestic but unintentional assist from Ashley Cole. Two minutes before time Ljajic again equalised for Roma with a nice free kick. City would then go on to win in a penalty shoot out due to Joe Hart's heroics.

What Sterling showed in this game is his pace and direct running will give City another dimension. 
Last season against Bayern, where City luckily beat the Bavarians, and against Barcelona in the champions league round of sixteen, City started with David Silva and Samir Nasri on the flanks. They opted to counter attack both teams, but this tactic was doomed from the start with these two on the wings. Both are world class players on the wings in the premier league, but only when City dominate possession. In this circumstance they can disregard the responsibilities of an ordinary winger of stretching the opposition and tracking back, instead being able to roam into the middle and not have to worry to much about running with their back to the opposition keeper. Against Bayern and Barcelona though, they had different roles and had to stretch the game and run with the ball. Both lack the pace and movement of a true winger, so when City broke away, they were not able to stab both teams on the counter like a Chelsea or a Real Madrid. Against Roma, Sterling was a constant thorn in the opposition defence as he ran at defenders but still played with the City philosophy of quick passing. Sterling's counter attack goal in the game highlights how in big matches against the bigger teams in the Champions league, he will be an asset and worth the money. He will give City the direct style they were pretending to have against Bayern and Barcelona and give City pace in the side.

Jesus Navas was crucified last season for his performances. While he wasn’t as bad as he was made out to have been, he is one dimensional in the way he only runs to the byline and crosses it. Rarely he cuts inside and roams into other areas of the pitch to make a difference. In the second half, when Sterling was off and Navas was on, City were much less of a threat. In the first forty five, Sterling was constantly swapping flanks, coming inside and out, while in the second half Navas only ran in one direction and took all shots on his right. Sterling is an upgrade in this sense as when deployed on the flanks he can run to the byline, cut inside or roam into central positions so the City attack will be more dynamic.

If this match was a highlight of what Sterling will do next season, City fans can rejoice. While his individual play was terrific, his link up with his teammates was just as good. Sterling's cohesion with the team, especially David Silva was mouth watering the whole first half. The two constantly proved difficult to read and it's players like Silva who bring out the best in others. With Silva, Sterling will definitely settle in better and seamlessly fit into the first team, and hopefully help City towards the Premier League trophy.

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