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Talking Tactics

Guardiola faith putting Sterling on the rise

9 Oct 2016
Manchester City v West Ham United

Man City winger reaping benefits of new manager's approach at the Etihad, says Adrian Clarke

From the first seven matches of the 2016/17 Premier League a number of players have been rejuvenated from the previous campaign.

Adrian Clarke looks at five unexpected heroes. After Etienne Capoue and Sam Clucas, he continues with Manchester City's rejuvanated winger. 

Raheem Sterling (Man City)

The "new manager effect" can have an impact on each individual differently but in Raheem Sterling's case the arrival of Pep Guardiola has brought about an overwhelmingly positive change.

Perhaps lifted by the Spaniard's initial faith in his ability, there has been noticeably more verve to Sterling's approach in the early weeks of the campaign.

Running at defenders with as much belief as he did when bursting on to the scene with Liverpool, statistically, Sterling is going past his man almost twice as often as in 2015/16.

Guardiola's tactical philosophy has also helped him shine. 

Sterling-touch-maps.png
Sterling kept his width versus West Ham (left) and got into the box regularly against AFC Bournemouth

City's new head coach likes his wide men to hug the touchline and for full-backs to resist continual overlaps that can crowd wingers' space. The 21-year-old has reaped the benefits of that extra room.

With his team shifting the ball with more urgency, and concurrently producing better movement, Sterling and City's other forwards have generally found it far easier this term to get on the ball in areas where they can inflict damage, deep inside the final third.

Until now, the missing ingredient in Sterling's make-up has been his finishing but, in that respect, the youngster has made great strides.

Raising his chance conversion from 17% to 33%, he's scoring at a rate of one every 149 minutes.

During his most prolific season at Anfield, in 2013/14, when he scored nine times, he did so at an average of one every 246.7 minutes.

At moments when a calm head is required to apply the right finish, Sterling is displaying greater maturity than before.

Sterling appreciation

Sterling stats 2016/17 2015/16
Touches per 90 56.08 61.25
Duels won 48% 44.9%
Tackles won 88% 74%
Chances created per 90 0.9 1.6
Succesful dribbles per 90 3.47 1.92
Shots per 90 1.81 1.68
Minutes per goal 149.3 320.8
Chances conversion 33% 17%


Experience plays a part in that but so too does the confidence he knows his manager has in him.

Footballers are less likely to snatch at opportunities when they feel relaxed.

Sterling is not running further or faster this season but there is an air of intensity about his effort. When pressing opponents for example, he is doing so with a lot more purpose.

With the talented Leroy Sane waiting in the wings, the Englishman knows he has serious competition for his place but, under Guardiola's tutorage, there can be no doubt Sterling is producing some of the best football of his career.

It's down to him now, to maintain and build on these standards.

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