Raheem Sterling may have been fearing for his place in the Manchester City side this summer when the club broke their transfer record to sign Riyad Mahrez from Leicester.
However, Pep Guardiola trusted him from the start in their opening game of the season against Arsenal and Sterling proved the Spanish boss was right to trust him ahead of Leroy Sane.
Sterling netted 23 times last season, but came in for criticism while failing to score during England’s World Cup campaign, despite putting in some solid performances. It was apt then that he capped his return to Premier League football with a stunning strike from outside the box as City overran Unai Emery’s Arsenal.
Sterling, playing on the left of the front three, beat a couple of Arsenal defenders as he cut inside on the edge of the box and slammed the ball past a helpless Petr Cech. Even those who have backed the now 23-year-old throughout his career would have said that his shooting, especially from distance, could do with work and so this will have been the perfect start to the new season for the Englishman.
Even before his goal Sterling had looked dangerous, with one of his three shots of the game coming after just eight minutes when the winger turned Shkodran Mustafi inside out but couldn’t beat Cech. This would also be one of his three dribbles that characterised his confident performance.
The three fouls that Sterling committed earned him a yellow card from referee Michael Oliver, but also showed the work that Guardiola has done to turn Sterling into a hard working player who can use his pace to be effective in a high-press system.
Despite their best efforts, City had to wait another hour until Bernardo Silva smashed home Benjamin Mendy’s pull back to make the game safe after the Frenchman overlapped Sterling and City’s number seven fed him a perfectly weighted pass.
City’s quest to retain the Premier League title is underway then, and Sterling will have done himself no harm in the battle for a starting spot on the wing against Huddersfield on Sunday.