How will Pulisic, Havertz, Werner be affected by star forward’s signing?

Raheem Sterling is officially a Chelsea player after completing his transfer from Premier League champions Manchester City. It’s a transfer few would have predicted at the end of last season, but two months and potentially up to £50m later he has returned to his hometown of London with a move to Stamford Bridge.

Sterling, 27, signed for City from Liverpool in July 2015 on a deal worth £49million that made him the most expensive Englishman ever at the tender age of 20. He spent seven seasons at the Etihad, winning the Premier League title on four occasions, as well as seven other trophies and a runner-up in the 2020-21 Champions League.

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The spry forward was in many ways emblematic of manager Pep Guardiola’s time when he was in charge of City. No player has been directly involved in more goals for the club in the Guardiola era, with Sterling averaging 186 goals (120) and assists (66) in all competitions since the Spanish manager came ahead of the 2016/17 season. Of Guardiola’s 120 goals, 113 were scored inside the box and 46 of those were completed inside the six-yard box.

Of course, he also unleashed a few brilliant 20-yard curlers here and there (and even the odd header from the 5ft7 forward), but if you’re imagining a standard Sterling goal, chances are good that you’re imagining a rush far-post-tap-in. That’s what he does, and he does it better than almost anyone. Call it a gimmick or a by-product of a now instinctive positional awareness honed to perfection.

Overall, the striker has scored 131 goals and provided 74 assists in 337 competitive games for City since making his debut in the 3-0 win against West Bromwich Albion in August 2015. In doing so, Chelsea sign one of English football’s most prolific forwards, even if he’s not necessarily a player they’ve been clamoring for.

This summer, the Blues’ only recognized centre-forward, Romelu Lukaku, was loaned out by the Italian club to Inter Milan for €115m just a year after his ill-fated signing, while there are already several players in coach Thomas Tuchel’s squad who can like Sterling playing in one or more attacking positions in wide areas, behind a forward or as a fake No.9: Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.


Chelsea get Sterling without breaking the bank

But while Sterling may not have been the signing many had expected from Todd Boehly since he became the club’s new co-owner and interim sporting director, it certainly looks like he represents great value.

Aside from his first two seasons as a senior professional after graduating from Liverpool Academy aged 17 in the 2011/12 season, Sterling has never fallen below double digits in terms of total goals scored per season.

In nine campaigns from the 2013/14 season, he has scored at least 10 goals for his club in all competitions, peaking in 2019/20 with 31 goals in 52 games for City – an incredible return for a player who only plays as a player The No. 9 center forward has played five times this season.

While last season was hardly a good year for the forward, Sterling nonetheless made a significant contribution to City’s title win, scoring 17 goals and 8 assists in 47 games, proving his creative powers are far from waning.

While a transfer fee that could soar to £50million was once enough to make him the most expensive English player of all time, a similar fee seven years later is hardly enough to raise eyebrows – with Sterling’s move to Chelsea falling just short among the top 50 greatest is transfers ever received in the Premier League.

And, lest we forget, Sterling won’t turn 30 until the middle of the 2024/25 season, so he’s got quite a few years left in which to expect to wreak havoc on defenders on either flank and plenty everywhere Ground to cover field and most importantly score a lot of goals.


What does this mean for Chelsea’s other attackers?

Kai Havertz

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Of the Chelsea players available to Thomas Tuchel ahead of the 2022/23 season, Havertz finished last season as the top scorer with just 14 goals in all competitions (Lukaku scored 15, although only eight in the league). While Sterling could be asked to fill the central berth vacated by Lukaku, albeit in a very different way to the strapping 6ft-3 forward, Havertz is perhaps more likely to continue filling the No. 9 role. The Germany international is rarely one to make his presence felt during a game, but his movement and timing mean he can throw defenders out of position and be in the right place to end attacking moves.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

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The England international won’t turn 22 until November but the player who was once considered a rising star for club and country is one of the players most at risk from Sterling’s arrival. Hudson-Odoi clearly still has plenty of time to reach his full potential: he missed the final two months of last season after being ruled out with what he called a “neurological” issue, and his progress as a teenager has been reviewed by one extended absence due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. But as a striker who prefers to maraud down the left flank, who scored just one goal in 11 Premier League starts last season, Hudson-Odoi could be in contention for game time in 2022-23.

mason mountain

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Mount has been one of Chelsea’s most consistent and versatile attacking players since breaking into the first-team in Frank Lampard’s debut 2019/20 season. The 23-year-old starts alongside Sterling regularly for England, most recently in two of their most recent post-season Nations League games as well as five of their games at Euro 2020, including the final. So it would be a surprise if Chelsea’s youth product didn’t repeat this partnership at club level next season.

Christian Pulisic

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Pulisic is predominantly right-footed but has often positioned himself down the left flank of Chelsea’s attack, making him another player who could be particularly concerned about his place in the side following Sterling’s arrival and he has been shown interest by this summer Juventus linked. However, the USA international is the most diligent of all Chelsea forwards when it comes to spreading himself most evenly around the pitch, showing Tuchel he has a lot of threads up his sleeve. Also, the 23-year-old was the only Chelsea forward to surpass his xG in 2021-22 by scoring eight goals with an average rating of 7.33.

Timo Werner

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For all the criticism of Werner, the Germany international has scored double-digit goals in his two seasons at Chelsea. Since joining the club he has mostly acted on the left side of attack, using his pace and movement to disrupt defenses off the ball as much as with it at his feet. Unfortunately, that description also fits Sterling, who has a much stronger track record in English football. There could be hope Werner retains a regular spot in the team, although it could mean he faces compatriot Havertz for the central role in attack, which he played with great aplomb during his time at RB Leipzig before his move to Stamford Bridge took.

Hakim Ziyech

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Despite Ziyech starting 27 games last season, one more than in his first season at the club, Ziyech is still seen as a fringe player for Chelsea who has yet to make a significant impact on the first-team. The Moroccan international has been linked with AC Milan interest this summer and while he prefers to play on the right side of attack, he could be the one to make way for Sterling if Chelsea are happy to focus on the greater versatility abandons their other attack options.

Additional research and writing by Tony Mabert was used in this report

https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-the-toe-poke/story/4699712/sterling-joins-chelsea-how-will-pulisichavertzwerner-be-affected-by-star-forwards-signing How will Pulisic, Havertz, Werner be affected by star forward’s signing?

Emma Bowman

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