Manchester City is getting the absolute best from Raheem Sterling as he continues to climb the ladder in world football. The 24-year-old had all of his quality on display on Tuesday against Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League. But what this hattrick really does is confirm Raheem Sterling in his place amongst the best players in the world.
Raheem Sterling Is At The Top of the Game
His Attacking Game
There has been a lot made about the improvement Raheem Sterling has made over the last few seasons. He has come an incredibly long way in the most important area of his game, play in the final third. Whether it’s playing a pass, drawing a foul, rifling in a cross, or scoring a goal, Sterling has made an incredible improvement in his game.
Sterling showed how far he came in each skill in this game alone. He did an excellent job drawing the foul by Atalanta defender Andrea Masiello to win the penalty. His cutback to floor Rafael Toloi was even better, and his finish into the roof of the net after a lovely team move was the best.
Raheem Sterling could’ve bundled any one of those chances in seasons gone by. But as he continues his ascension as a player those chances have continually gone into the back of the net. Except of course for what should have been his fourth goal tonight.
Raheem Sterling Goal Machine
The obvious difference in his game is the volume of goals he is scoring. Sterling has scored 12 goals in 13 games in all competitions this season for Manchester City. When you include his England numbers going back to March its 24 goals in 26 games. He’s nothing if not consistent over the last six months.
And consistency is exactly what his game was lacking. Becoming a consistent player, in buildup or dribbling or volume goal-scoring has been instrumental in his ascension. Sterling’s ascension has been a catalyst for a lot of Manchester City’s success.
His All-Around Game
Most would think he has made his most significant strides as a player in the attacking third. But when Pep Guardiola came to Manchester City, Sterling was a pretty useless defensive player as well. He would track back and do his work defensively, but it wasn’t with real conviction and he wasn’t great at it.
It’s one thing to track back and do the defensive work; its another to really defend and selflessly help the team. Raheem Sterling has gotten better at this each season, but this year he has been imperious. He senses danger better than most defensive midfielders and puts in an excellent challenge.
He had a massive challenge on Wilfried Zaha this weekend, and another just as important one on Timothy Castagne early on in this game. Sterling has gotten so much better at his pressing and tackling these last few seasons. His ability has made Manchester City’s loss of fellow young winger Leroy Sane seem almost unnoticeable.
The Other Stars
It wasn’t just Raheem Sterling who put on a fantastic performance against Atalanta on Tuesday. Manchester City fans all over the world were delighted to see Phil Foden’s name in the starting eleven. The young Englishman has had to wait his turn for first-team opportunities, especially in some of the bigger games.
The kid played really well slotting into David Silva’s familiar position on the left side of midfield. He was excellent combining with Raheem Sterling, including getting an assist on one of his goals. But his night did not end without controversy. Foden was sent off with ten minutes left for his second yellow card in five minutes.
His first yellow was for a sliding tackle, which wasn’t great but wasn’t a guaranteed yellow card tackle. His second yellow was for a slight pull on an arm, dumb but probably not worth sending him off for. Foden may have been unlucky with his referee on Tuesday but to be fair, all the greats get sent off eventually.