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Can Sterling be the solution to Man City's goalscoring problem?

5:00 PM GMT+8 22/11/2021
Raheem Sterling
After falling out of favour under Pep Guardiola, the England winger showed his attacking quality in Sunday's 3-0 victory over Everton

No one at Manchester City has played more matches under Pep Guardiola than Raheem Sterling.

And no one in the current squad has scored more goals under the Catalan during his five year reign, either.

So with goalscoring issues threatening to impact another Premier League title challenge, there is surely no one better to turn to than the England international?

For the fourth successive league match, City came up against a team in Everton on Sunday that were prepared to sit deep and relinquish possession to try to frustrate Guardiola's side.

Unlike on the first occasion, when they were held to a goalless draw by Southampton, or the previous time, when they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace, City's dominance was rewarded.

But there was a real danger of another blank and more frustration until Sterling broke the deadlock moments before half-time.

His instinctive run saw him find space in the box before a clever side foot finish rewarded Joao Cancelo's outrageous through ball.

Suddenly the pressure at the Etihad Stadium was lifted, and Rodri and Bernardo Silva had the platform to add the gloss in the second half with goals of their own.

It seems like an obvious solution to turn to a player in Sterling who now has 107 goals in 271 appearances under Guardiola, but that would be forget to his recent troubles.

An unused substitute in the Manchester derby before the international break, this was just his third goal in 16 matches so far this season, having also endured a difficult end to the last campaign.

At his best in the 2019-20 season, Sterling had already claimed 15 goals in all competitions by the end of November.

“He needed [the goal], and in the first half he was an important player going to the by-line and making passes,” Guardiola said at full-time on Sunday.

“He scored a brilliant goal, with a great pass from Joao again. He made a good game.”

Too much time in recent months has been spent talking about Sterling's future - so much so that Guardiola stated he would refuse speak about it any more ahead of the Everton match.

With 18 months remaining on his contract and the suggestion that he could leave in search of regular football, off-field speculation has taken away from what a huge contribution the former Liverpool man can make.

Sterling's latest appearance was his 300th in the Premier League, with only Wayne Rooney, Gareth Barry and James Milner having reached the milestone at a younger age.

To have done it playing at the very top of the English game underlines the quality and experience he has. His form for England - particularly at Euro 2020 - has remained high, which is why his domestic dip has been puzzling.

Against Everton he started as a right winger and was City's biggest attacking threat before he opened the scoring. First he picked out Phil Foden, who headed narrowly off target, then missed from close range himself before winning a penalty that was subsequently overturned by the VAR.

After missing out on signing a striker in the summer and with Gabriel Jesus now more comfortable playing out wide, Sterling is probably the most senior squad member who can play as an orthodox number nine.

But whether it is the pressure of expectation in terms of providing goals that inhibits him when he plays there or not, he looked far more comfortable and threatening back in a wide position.

Academy youngster Cole Palmer was the latest to take on the 'false nine' role, and contributed a solid performance on his first Premier League start.

Bernardo, Kevin De Bruyne, Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling have all been depolyed ther in the past under Guardiola, and without a 30-plus goal striker, Guardiola needs all his players to contribute in the final third..

For his part, Sterling just wants to play, and if he does that, signing a contract extension to keep him at City even longer remains a possibility.

For all the recent rumours and speculation, City can still be the answer for Sterling, and Sterling can be the answer for City.