LONDON – We take a detailed look at Raheem Sterlingâ€™s Manchester City debut against West Brom.
â€œIt is easy for good players to settle in a good team.â€ â€“ Manuel Pellegrini
On the evidence of Manchester Cityâ€™s dominant 3-0 victory over West Brom on Monday Night Football, their managerâ€™s view has already been justified. Sterlingâ€™s debut following his Â£49m move from Liverpool proved an undoubted triumph.
In truth, it was a slow start given all the anticipation. Indeed, Sterling didnâ€™t have his first Premier League touch as a City player until the fourth minute of the game and even that culminated in a misunderstanding with full-back Aleksandar Kolarov.
But moments later there was a better example of his threat. â€œHe will give us speed,â€ said Pellegrini in his pre-match interview for Sky Sports and it soon showed with Craig Gardner not taking any chances – cynically tripping Sterling as he looked to break free at pace.
That’s what Sterling gives this City side. And his team-mates know it. â€œWe have some new tools to use this season,” captain Vincent Kompany told Sky Sports afterwards. “Raheem has given us this speed that we need to hurt teams when we are defending and it gives the other teams something to think about.
“If the full-back wants to push up you donâ€™t quite know if you want to go all the way when you have someone that quick.â€ It was no surprise that the Premier League tracking data revealed Sterling to be the quickest player on the pitch.
As a result of that pace, while the Hawthorns crowd booed most of his early touches, unfavourably comparing the England manâ€™s abilities with home-team hero Saido Berahino, Sterling enjoyed a rather better relationship with David Silva. Itâ€™ll have City supporters excited.
Sterling claimed Silva was â€œon a different planetâ€ last week but he got close enough to his team-mate on Monday. Silva seemed to be really enjoying it too with an early one-two highlighting the fact that Sterlingâ€™s speed gives the playmaker a big target for his passes.
Sterling was naturally drawn into central positions to exchange passes with Silva and that movement created space for Kolarov to exploit down the left. â€œThat could be a relationship that weâ€™ll see,â€ Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports. â€œSterling coming inside and Kolarov going.â€
It played a role in the opening goal and was also a factor in the second with the Sterling and Silva combination again catching the eye as they traded no fewer than seven passes between them in the build-up.
Raheem Sterling hit a top speed of 32.44 km/h in Man City’s 3-0 win over West Brom making him the fastest man on the pitch.
Several West Brom players were attracted to the ball to leave Toure in space in the centre. The Ivorian made the most of it in spectacular fashion, striking superbly from distance to beat Boaz Myhill and double the lead.
Pellegrini had pointed out that playing with top-class players would improve Sterling and with the newcomer receiving no fewer than 16 passes from Silva during his 74-minute debut, one of them almost brought him a debut goal.
Silva expertly threaded a ball through the Baggies defence as Sterling burst clear of his marker James Chester to advance on Myhill. However, the subsequent finish was a tame one and comfortably stopped by the goalkeeper.
Pellegrini had described Sterling as â€œthe complete strikerâ€ before kick-off, but this is surely an aspect of his game that must improve. â€œWe look at Sterling and where he can improve in terms of finishing,â€ said Carragher, â€œbut this is the finish that heâ€™s been exceptional at.
â€œThink of the finish on the first day of last season for Liverpool against Southampton or for Manchester City in pre-season. Heâ€™s maybe becoming too predictable when heâ€™s in that position. Perhaps he needs to give the keeper the eyes or go the other way.â€
That challenge lies ahead of Sterling and his manager has been clear that improvement is expected. But the earliest indications are that this Man City side possesses the quality that will give their new acquisition every chance to fulfil his potential. He already looks settled. – SkySport