Continuing our series looking at Premier League stars who are key for their World Cup side, Maryam Naz profiles Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling.
Name: Raheem Sterling
Club: Manchester City
Position: Winger/attacking midfielder
The late, late show…
Sterling has scored 18 league goals in 31 appearances this season, a personal best. He has been a crucial figure for Manchester City in their title charge, scoring late goals to win the team the three points in the last moments. He scored in the 97th and 98th minute against Bournemouth to win the match, and repeated the same feat against West Brom.
But can he deliver consistently on the big stage?
While he has been prolific for his domestic side, the quality of his performances for England in qualifiers has been inconsistent. Sterling has been a regular name in the starting line-up and his performances in their wins against Scotland and Lithuania proved that he deserves to be there. In the return game against Scotland, he came on as a late substitute, and against Malta he was taken off at half-time. Though against Nigeria in a World Cup warm-up friendly, he played 73 minutes.
The pace is the name of the game…
Despite this unpredictability, Sterling will be a valuable asset for England this summer. His pace and skills suit Southgate’s style of play well – one that involves younger, faster and more technical players. A 3-4-2-1 formation encourages wing-backs, Kyle Walker and Ashley Young, to really put their foot on the pedal, pushing Sterling and co. further up the field in positions to attack. This will create the perfect environment for him to thrive.
Who will be key in maintaining defensive stability?
With the focus on ‘attack, attack, attack’, England will need a calmer figure in the centre of the pitch to ensure defensive stability. Players like Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier come to mind; they will need to break up play and prevent counter-attacks, as well as instigate their own. The inclusion of either player will involve them sitting in front of the defenders and providing protection from the opposition’s attack. Both are also capable of making forward passes that could result in goals.
Could this be England’s year?
With Southgate having deemed some of the more experienced players not good enough to take help England progress in Russia, the pressure is on the younger players to deliver. The hopes of an entire nation rest on their shoulders. Southgate has opted largely for pace over experience, But there is still potential here. The potential for the Young Lions to carry their team all the way to another semi-final.
Follow Maryam on Twitter @MNaz98