It’s no secret that Raheem Sterling has had an utterly devastating season for Manchester City this term.
In a sky blue attack that boasts a number of arrows in its quiver, Sterling has been particularly lethal, a standout performer in a team of unequivocal and much-lauded stars.
With 17 goals and 8 assists in 29 Premier League appearances so far this season, Sterling’s place in the England team come June is an absolute no-brainer: but will he be able to come up big for the Three Lions when they need him most?
The 23-year-old winger has been unable to notch a goal for his country since he netted in a 2-0 over Estonia in 2015, a run that stretches 20 games and two-and-a-half years. But it’s a dry-patch that belies both Sterling’s form and his quality.
“At the end of the day I should be scoring a lot more for England and I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he admitted in a press conference held shortly after England’s 1-0 win over the Netherlands in March. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of expectation surrounding Sterling, but a goal-glut almost feels inevitable, given how he managed to turn things around at City: “I’ve done that at my club. I wasn’t scoring a lot of goals there as well but made the turnaround and started scoring. Same with England – I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and score more. And it will be a matter of time.”
‘A matter of time’ indeed. It’s hard to see an international goal evading Sterling for too much longer, but there are a few statistics from this oh-so-glorious season that might give Sterling some cause for distress.
Though the prolific frontman has scored an average of 0.59 goals a game in the league, he has missed a somewhat unhealthy 11 big chances. This, coupled with a relatively low shooting accuracy of 41%, indicates that Sterling isn’t as clinical as he should be.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue with 17 goals in a season from a wing position (a season that, might I add, is not yet over).
If Sterling manages to fire in England’s warm-up games, he should have the confidence to find the pockets of space in World Cup matches that make him so potent. What’s more, England’s opening games against Panama and Tunisia should (and, I emphasise, should) provide him with an excellent opportunity to fill his boots. If he can bag a few goals in those first couple of games, then who knows what he could go on and do…
No matter what the World Cup has in store for young Raheem, the prospect of him linking up with Harry Kane is a mouth-watering one, and, if the stars align correctly and lady fortune smiles upon the men in white, that partnership could be the driving force behind a successful tournament for the Three Lions.
One thing is for certain, however: with Kane alongside him upfront, Sterling shouldn’t be expecting to claim all of the goals that he has the potential to score at Russia 2018.