Would Raheem Sterling be an upgrade to Chelsea’s current attack?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates after scoring their team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain at Etihad Stadium on November 24, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates after scoring their team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain at Etihad Stadium on November 24, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

Chelsea’s takeover is finally nearing the finish line after one of the last hurdles was successfully cleared when the Premier League and English Government approved the sale. Todd Boehly’s consortium is inching closer to becoming the new owners of the Blues, and it is more than ready to back Thomas Tuchel in the upcoming transfer window. Boehly is expected to give the gaffer around £200 million to work with this summer, which will go a long way in improving the squad.

At the end of the day, it is silly season though. Despite Chelsea losing a handful of defenders and perhaps even a midfielder or two, the press is focused on the top of the pitch when linking players to the reigning European Champions. The Blues have been mentioned in discussions containing some true superstars, such as Neymar. However, it is Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling that we will take a look at in this piece. After all, the question that is on the minds of all Chelsea fans right now is: would Sterling’s addition actually improve the Blues’ attack?

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Would Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling actually improve Chelsea?

Before taking a deeper dive and dissecting the England international’s numbers over the years, it’s important to preface this analysis with a fact. Sterling’s statistics cannot be scanned without some context. It’s easy to view his numbers in a vacuum and claim he would not be good for Chelsea. However, I refuse to stoop to that level—context is everything.

Part of the reason Sterling has been so good for both Man City and England is the fact he’s had the right players around him and he’s played in the right system. The reality is that any attacking addition that the Blues make must coincide with the arrival of a creative mind in midfield. Fans love to cite Chelsea’s lack of clinical finishing as the reason for its struggles. This is partly the case, but the Blues have lacked an elite chief creator in the middle of the park since Cesc Fabregas departed in 2019. In order to get the best out of the former Liverpool winger, Chelsea would need to add a creative midfielder to slot in alongside Mason Mount. If it didn’t, Sterling would be rendered ineffective in the current team.

Now to answer the question you’ve all come to see answered.

Sterling is known by frequent Premier League spectators for two things: his knack for missing key chances and running like a Tyrannosaurus rex. Unfortunately, there are no known statistics that analyze whether or not the Blues need a Cretaceous-era sprinter in their side, so we’re going to focus on the former.

As touched on in the previous paragraph, the 27-year-old misses a lot of great opportunities. He ranks joint-fifth in the Premier League for big chances missed. This is an awfully worrying statistic when isolated, but a quick glance at the names above him will reveal that sitting near the top of this list isn’t such a bad thing after all, it just means he’s found himself on the end of a lot of chances this year. Sterling is level with Sadio Mane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jarrod Bowen on 13 big chances missed. In ascending order, Diogo Jota (14), Son Heung-min (17), Mohamed Salah (17) and Harry Kane (18) are the only names above the Manchester City man.

The positive spin here is that all of the aforementioned names rank amongst the Premier League’s top 10 in goals scored with Bowen being the lone exception. Sterling is the outlier when it comes to shots, he sits 33rd in the English top flight, having taken just 57. He does score on 23% of his shots, which ranks above all of the aforementioned competition in Jota (17%), Salah (17%), Ronaldo (16%), Mane (16%), Bowen (15%) and Kane (13%). Son is the only one that has a more prolific return than Sterling as he’s scored on 27% of his shots.

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It must be said that his percentage is genuinely higher though because of the fact he’s fired off fewer shots than the rest. On the flip side, his low-shot return means he misses a higher percentage of chances than his fellow forwards. It’s feast or famine for Sterling as it relates to goals scored. His return is promising though, especially when compared to the Blues’ current wingers. A paragraph in my previous piece on Sterling scratches the surface of this statistic:

"“He would bring more to the side than Christian Pulisic (six goals, two assists), Timo Werner (four goals, one assist) and Hakim Ziyech (four goals, three assists). In fact, Sterling’s 13 goals and six assists this season fall just one goal shy of equalling all three of the aforementioned wingers’ outputs combined.”"

When putting on my Chelsea-centric shades and comparing Sterling to the Blues wingers named in the quote, he still stacks up very well with his 23% conversion rate on shots. Pulisic scores on 21% of his shots, Werner finds the back of the net on 9% and Ziyech sits last at 8%. These numbers reveal just how wasteful Chelsea’s wide attackers have been this season. The latter two have more comparable shot numbers to Sterling (57) at 45 and 52 respectively. Pulisic is the outlier here with only 28 shots taken, so his percentage numbers will automatically appear a bit higher.

The saving grace in this sense for Ziyech is his chance creation numbers. If Chelsea is going to add a prolific—in a sense, don’t read into that term too much—winger like Sterling, it would need creativity on the other flank to make up for his relatively poor return in that department. The Moroccan managed to create nine big chances for the Blues this season, despite just 1,300 minutes in the league. This ranks third at the club behind only Reece James and Mount. The addition of Sterling and the continued stay of Ziyech would mean that either Pulisic or Werner would be on the outside looking in, in this scenario.

Sterling’s numbers prove that he’s got what it takes to succeed in the Premier League. His run from 2017/18 until now has been elite in terms of his goalscoring return (18 goals and 15 assists, 17/11, 20/4, 10/8 and 13/6) as he’s reached levels rarely seen by Chelsea wide men. It is worth noting though that Manchester City has finished with more big chances created per season than the Blues in every year since 2017. Guardiola’s tiki taka style of build-up also gets wingers into better goalscoring positions, hence why Sterling is often teased for being a tap-in merchant.

This context just goes to show that the club would still have its work cut out for it in order to get the best out of Sterling. Chelsea would need to make changes to its personnel and slight alterations to how it attacks in order to maximize the Englishman’s qualities. Regardless, he’s a better option than many—if not all—natural wingers the Blues have on their roster right now. Sterling may not be an elite chance creator or even goalscorer, but numbers don’t lie. They tell the story of a Premier League-proven player who has found the net more often in recent seasons than those he’s being compared to regularly.

If Tuchel and the Chelsea hierarchy put Sterling in a place to succeed, his move to west London could be the start of something special. If not, at the very least, he would be an upgrade over some of the options currently at the German manager’s disposal. This could be important if the Citizens are willing to part with him for the right price.

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What do you think about the Blues reportedly targeting Sterling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!