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What’s Wrong with Chelsea’s Sterling After Manchester Transfer?

Nov 5, 2022

MANCHESTER, England – Raheem Sterling joined Chelsea from Manchester City in July; the forward’s attacking output has decreased at Stamford Bridge, where he has been lining up at wing-back; Sterling has just one goal in his previous 11 games, and his form is concerning heading into the World Cup.

In July, Thomas Tuchel referred to the acquisition of Raheem Sterling for £47.5 million from Manchester City as Chelsea’s “No. 1 priority.” Four months later, Tuchel is no longer in charge, and Graham Potter’s top priority has quickly changed to figuring out how to get the most out of the 27-year-old.

It is understandable that Tuchel was excited to acquire a four-time Premier League champion from another big-six team, and he emphasized the “flexibility, movement, and attacking options at the front” the 27-year-old would provide to his team.

Since taking over at Stamford Bridge, Sterling’s successor Potter has lauded his “flexibility, versatility, and quality to play in different places,” and has used similar language to describe Tuchel.

The England international has been used in a variety of positions, including wing-back, by Potter, who has taken use of his tactical adaptability. His predecessor, though, quickly inserted Sterling into the attack.

At the beginning of his Chelsea tenure, the head coach went on a nine-game unbeaten streak, although his use of Sterling drew criticism. Sterling only has one goal and one assist under Potter, regardless of whether he plays as a winger, striker, or wing-back.

There is a chance that, with the World Cup approaching, England and Gareth Southgate’s issue will also affect Chelsea and Potter.

Why has Sterling been manning the wing-back position?

Following his return to London with Chelsea, Sterling has not only had to adjust to a new club but also a variety of new positions after spending the majority of his seven years at City as a winger.

In Tuchel’s 3 to 4 to 3 formations, the former QPR player started as a false nine, but when the head coach altered to a 4 to 4 to 2, the player found himself playing alongside Kai Havertz in a front two.

After going without a goal in each of his first three games, Sterling scored three goals in each of his last two games, thus it appeared that the adjustment worked.

As the former Brighton manager has mainly returned Chelsea to a three-at-the-back formation, Sterling has been moved once more with deployments at both right and left wing-back as well as a part in the front three.

Potter highlighted injuries as another justification for using Sterling in addition to wanting to benefit from his “flexibility”. With losing the players we currently have, the head coach acknowledged that “it’s not straightforward” and that he is “constantly trying to find the proper balance.”

Reece James, Chelsea’s lone real right wing-back, was lost, and Potter has had to adjust. Wesley Fofana and N’Golo Kante have both left the club, which has made life difficult for Potter.

James was initially supposed to be replaced by Sterling, but the experiment against Aston Villa was scrapped after just 45 minutes. In the four games that have followed, Christian Pulisic has started at right wing-back twice, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Cesar Azpilicueta have each started there once. It’s obvious that Potter is still looking for the most effective approach to deal with the death of James.

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