Raheem Sterling earned the man of the match award for Manchester City in their 3-1 win over Tottenham at Wembley.
Sterling won the penalty for City’s second goal and scored the third himself to take his Premier League tally to the season for 17. The 23-year-old forward now has 22 goals in all competitions which is twice as many as he has registered in any other season.
But fresh from his missed chances against Manchester United that proved so costly last weekend, Sterling still managed to spurn some great opportunities in front of goal.
That is the reason why the bold prediction of Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola afterwards came with a caveat. “The moment he is able to increase the number of goals he scores in front of goal, he will become one of the best players in the world because he has everything,” Guardiola told Sky Sports. “He is a fighter. He is so dynamic. He is so good.
“But he has to improve that. He has a lot of chances and he has to improve his average. But he is so young and he has the ability and he has the will to do that.”
Pep Guardiola had a prediction about Sterling in his post-match interview
So does Sterling agree that he can improve? “Most definitely,” the player himself told Sky Sports afterwards. “The game against United, I snatched at a few and didn’t take my time. Today, when I had a chance inside the box, I tried to take my time. I went around the goalkeeper and tried to be composed and the defender came at the last moment.”
But what is the verdict from the Sky Sports pundits? Here’s how they see Sterling’s season in the wake of his Wembley performance…
“I have been impressed with what Raheem Sterling has done this season. I didn’t think he had that in his locker.
“He always gets criticised when he doesn’t score and when he misses those opportunities. But I always say about a striker or a winger, if you are in these type of positions it is always a plus. Also, how many times did he save City this season?
“I think he has developed so well and he has become a very important player for Manchester City. I felt for him after the game against Manchester United but what a player he has become.
“But when you want to win big things like the Champions League, those opportunities do have to go in the back of the net. That last pass that he gives to Bernardo Silva on the counter, it has to be an opportunity that finishes in a one-on-one for Bernardo Silva.
“He has to polish that. Is he going to be a finisher like one of the best we have seen in this league? I don’t know about that, but he will improve.”
“I don’t know how you get it but he has just got to get a bit of composure at the vital time.
“He is one of those players who, if it is an instinctive finish and it drops to him, he’ll score, but not when he has got a bit of time to think about it, such as against United last week, when he could have put them 5-0 up at half-time.
“Because of his bravery, his directness, pace and his technique he gets into the right position time and time again and he will get chances every game he plays. But I don’t know how you give someone that composure.”
“It’s his best ever season. There has been a huge improvement. He is getting into the positions so much more often.
“His runs, not just when he is playing as a central striker like, but when he is playing from a wide area, he is in at the back post, he is making those runs inside the line of the posts. He is not outside the posts, he is really in where it hurts. He has got into good positions and he has got people who can pass it to him, that’s the main thing.
“But that is the step up for next season. He has got to have less of those moments [where he fails to finish]. It’s just a lack of concentration.
“When you think about progression of players, he has progressed this season. He has 22 goals. But he has got to make sure he makes less of those unforced errors on the counter-attack to make himself a better player. It’s composure and concentration.”
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