Former Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips believes Raheem Sterling may undergo a stylistic change as a forward under Thomas Tuchel compared to Pep Guardiola.
The Blues completed the signing of Sterling from City earlier this summer in a deal worth £47.5m, and he produced his first major contribution of the season on Sunday as his well-weighted pass set up Reece James for the club’s second in their frantic 2-2 draw with Tottenham.
Yet to open his account for Chelsea after two matches, Sterling relocates to the capital having enjoyed seven trophy-laden years at the Etihad, where he established himself as Guardiola’s Mr Dependable, scoring goals for fun under the Catalan’s watch, and typically in big games.
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Despite his prodigious goalscoring record for City, Wright-Phillips believes Tuchel will utilise the forward in a different way to Guardiola, transforming him from a penalty-box assassin to a deeper attacker, owing largely to the tactical differences between both managers
Speaking to Squawka (courtesy of bet365), Wright-Phillips explained: “City and Chelsea play different styles and tactics so it’ll be difficult to compare like for like, he may now score more from outside the box rather than the tap-ins that he was getting at City.”
Indeed only four of Sterling’s 85 Premier League goals under Guardiola came from outside the box (4.7%), with 81 coming from inside — only Sadio Mane (88), Jamie Vardy (102), Mohamed Salah (111) and Harry Kane (116) netted more from inside the box during that time frame (2016/17 to 2021/22).
Sterling’s acquisition was necessitated by the difficulties another forward endured last season. Romelu Lukaku struggled to find a stable home in Tuchel’s possession-heavy system, leading to his eventual return to Inter this summer, and Wright-Phillips believes a stylistic clash between manager and player ultimately led to his disappointing Stamford Bridge reunion.
Wright-Phillips said: “When you go back to when Chelsea played Arsenal last season, we thought Chelsea would be a tough team to beat. As the season went on, Lukaku wasn’t playing like he did against Arsenal. Chelsea weren’t playing tactically towards his strengths.
“He had to do things he wasn’t used to doing and might not like doing in order to benefit the team. And vice versa, sometimes Chelsea could have slid the ball into him a lot more. When he has to move, he has to initiate his own strings and his own triggers, so I think it was a combination of those things why it didn’t work out.”
Wright-Phillips also gave his thoughts on Chelsea’s chances of competing for the Premier League title this campaign, saying that while he noticed a marked improvement against Spurs from the opening weekend’s slender 1-0 win over Everton, City and Liverpool have set a near-unassailable bar in recent seasons.
“I thought they played better against Spurs than Everton,” Wright-Phillips commented. “They struggled in a lot of ways against Everton, like they always do for some reason at Goodison. They came away with the result though and it’s all about getting the three points.
“Against Spurs, they dominated, they pressed and had the game for 65 minutes, playing really well. They’re still a bit off the title given the performances City and Liverpool can put in, winning 10-15 on the bounce, for Chelsea to do that is a massive ask, as many doubted Liverpool could even do it.”
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