The Raheem Sterling moment that should put Sergio Aguero on alert at Man City
The one constant Raheem Sterling wanted to talk about over the summer was goals.
In a number of interviews arranged either by Manchester City or by his own representatives, the forward had an easy answer to how he sees himself improving even further: goals, goals, goals.
If there were any doubts over his intent, the closing minutes of a 5-0 win over West Ham should have wiped them out. Sterling hadn’t been at his best as Pep Guardiola reminded after the game, but he had still scored two goals when Riyad Mahrez won the team a penalty. The England international is keen on taking over those responsibilities but especially with a potential hat-trick in sight he made a beeline for the ball.
But club record scorer Sergio Aguero is still the designated taker. Still smarting from having an assist chalked off because his shoulder was deemed millimetres offside as far as the technology was able to tell, Sterling had to watch as his teammate missed tamely before stepping up again when Declan Rice’s encroachment gave him a reprieve.
Twice denied the handout of a spotkick, the 24-year-old simply bided his time and as injury time beckoned he produced a trademark run to find himself free in front of goal. Aguero was waiting for a roll across goal and Lukasz Fabianski made the fatal error of assuming that’s where the ball would go. As the West Ham keeper began to move across his goal, Sterling rolled it in at the near post. No need to acknowledge Aguero, the match ball was in the bag.
Almost two years ago, Guardiola gave Aguero some of his highest praise when the Argentine chose to roll the ball across to Gabriel Jesus during their 5-0 rout of Liverpool rather than score himself. Both are competitors but having spent more than a season trying to get the club’s senior striker to become more of a team player than just a predatory finisher, this felt like a key moment and Aguero has gone on to get better and better.
This could be a similar moment for Sterling. The player has had to learn to focus on goals, to learn to love scoring and being the principal reason for his team winning football matches. His ambition has never been greater as he could potentially do what nobody has managed in the previous seven seasons: score more than Aguero in a single season.
As well as having the rejuvenated Gabriel Jesus snapping at his heels, City’s veteran striker now has an even more determined Sterling hungrier for the lion’s share of goals.
As Guardiola said of the competition in his team: “It’s the only way.”