Graham Potter’s Chelsea: Where should Raheem Sterling play?

Chelsea's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Chelsea's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images) /
Chelsea’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images) /

Raheem Sterling has played a number of positions for Chelsea already under Graham Potter, including playing as a left wingback/left wide midfielder in his first game under Potter, and playing as a right wingback/right wide midfielder in his most recent game under Potter. Sterling is tactically intelligent, and will excel in more than one position on the pitch as a result, but will he be as effective to the team regardless of where he plays?

Short answer – no. According to Transfermarkt, Sterling played 17 times as a center forward in eight years in the Premier League for Manchester City. He played 119 times as a left winger and 79 times as a right winger. He was more productive as a right winger, though that’s without any form of context.

What does not need context, is the fact that he played predominantly as a left winger, as that is his preferred side. Sterling’s playing-style involves him cutting inside from the left and dribbling. He also likes to play one-twos with his same-side central midfielders, as well as making runs behind the defensive line to receive a pass that often puts him through on goal.

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The problem with that style is that success requires several creative passers and decision-makers. Manchester City had those players in spades. At CFC, not so much. The other issue with this approach is the player in question. Sterling is not a creative player. He’s key to chance creation because someone has to be on the receiving end, but he’s not very good on the giving end of things. With regard to his role with the Blues, it is very important to get the best out of the England winger.

Chelsea doesn’t have that many off-the-ball runners that start regularly, and with Reece James and Mason Mount being key players, Sterling serves the Blues best if he plays as a left winger. He’d be able to do what he does best from there. The Blues now have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on their roster so Sterling doesn’t have to play as a main striker any more in a Chelsea shirt. He could also play as a right winger for the Blues, after all, he did record 0.88 goal involvements per game when he played there for Man City in the league. However, for the sake of team balance, he should be on the left, as CFC already has James and Mount operating mainly from the right flank.

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Chelsea may not have as many good decision-makers as the Citizens, but they have enough creative passers to spot runs. Sterling can provide these runs, and any of Reece James, Mason Mount or Hakim Ziyech (if he ever does play) can find his runs with passes.