Football Features

Raheem Sterling: the goalscoring winger who can power Chelsea to the Premier League title?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:05, 19 June 2022 | Updated: 14:02, 21 September 2022

Raheem Sterling has been linked heavily with a move to Chelsea.

The English winger always seems on the verge of leaving Manchester City, but this time it seems like it really might happen. Sterling only has a year to go on his current contract and with City sinking their money and focus into a goalscoring no. 9 like Erling Haaland, a primarily goalscoring winger like Sterling may end up being expendable.

Obviously Arsenal have always been linked with Sterling but that never seemed credible given the Gunners are still not back at the top table of the European game. While a move to either of Spanish giants has been complicated by Brexit rendering Sterling a non-EU national and thus subject to La Liga’s quota system. Enter Chelsea.

The Blues have an incredible squad (albeit they’re in need of some defensive recruitment after recent departures) but even though they won the Champions League in 2020/21, they’ve never come close to challenging for the Premier League title pretty much since they last won it in 2016/17 under Antonio Conte.

Part of the reason for that is quite simply a lack of goals. Chelsea scored 58 times in the 2020/21 Premier League, fewer than seven other teams and only three more goals than Arsenal managed. Things improved last season where they hit 76 which was enough for the third best but as a total is was way off LIverpool and City (94 and 99 respectively) and moreover it was third more because all the teams below them for dysfunctional messes for at least half the season if not more.

Romelu Lukaku was meant to be the £97m answer to their prayers. A world-class no. 9 with a point to prove. Turns out Lukaku was a bad fit for Chelsea’s counter-attacking style of play as he was the denied the kind of strike partner alongside which he’s always thrived. The Belgian scored just 8 times in the league last season. They need goals. Enter Raheem Sterling.

Since the start of 2017/18, Raheem Sterling has scored 78 goals in the Premier League. That puts him fourth for that time period, behind Jamie Vardy (91), Harry Kane (105) and Mohamed Salah (118).

In terms of non-penalty goals, Sterling stays fourth but is much closer now. Salah is down to 100, Kane to 89 and Sterling himself moves to 75, allowing Sadio Mané to leapfrog him at 77 with no penalties scored.

The point is: Raheem Sterling scores goals. The highest scoring Chelsea player over that time period (excluding Lukaku who scored 28 of his 36 goals for Manchester United) is Eden Hazard with 28 goals. That would be the Eden Hazard who hasn’t played in the Premier League since May 2019. And is still Chelsea’s top scorer since August 2017.

Is it any surprise Chelsea, who were defending champions in August 2017 remember, have failed to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City? The Guardiola juggernaut may involve a lot of false nine play but they’ve always had men who can score: chiefly Sterling (plus Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus). Liverpool, City’s closest rivals in that time, obviously have Salah and Sadio Mané blasting them in.

Sterling would add so much goal threat to the Chelsea attack. His ability to drift into the kind of positions that Chelsea’s key creators usually feed the ball to is greater than Lukaku’s, and unlike the profligate Timo Werner, Sterling can actually finish his chances.

Sterling has had 124 big chances in the league since the start of 2017/18, of those he has scored 59 and missed 65. That’s a 47.6% conversion rate, which is pretty solid. He shows up in the right place at the right time and gets plenty of “easy” goals as a result, but being in that right place at that right time is a skill few possess.

That’s not say Sterling is some pure goal poacher. He’s created 250 chances since the start of 2017/18 (only nine men have done better) and 46 of those have been big chances (only seven men have done better). So he’s definitely someone who can put it on a plate for others, if need be. Hell, Sterling could be exactly the kind of strike partner that Romelu Lukaku needs to thrive. A more mobile player who will stick closely to him and can easily trade-off goalscoring and goal creating.

Finally, Sterling’s 320 completed take-ons is fourth in the league since the start of 2017/18, so Chelsea would instantly brng back some of that elite ball carrying that Eden Hazard used to thrill Stamford Bridge with on a regular basis. And we’ve seen with Belgium that Lukaku likes to play with people who can carry the ball upfield, so it makes Sterling even more ideal to pair with Chelsea’s no. 9.

But of course Sterling could just play up-front with the likes of Werner, Kai Havertz or even Mason Mount. As we have seen this season there doesn’t have to be a reference point no. 9 for Sterling to he impactful. Look at the final day of the season where Sterling came off the bench to create that critical first goal in City’s dramatic title-winning comeback.

With a fee rumoured to be around £35m, this move makes too much sense from a Chelsea perspective to not happen. In fact the only hold-up would likely be from Manchester City’s end, who might not want to give a potential title rival a player like Raheem Sterling; a mobile goalscorer who fits perfectly into their tactical set-up and could be provide the goals they need to launch a genuine title challenge for the first time in five full seasons.