It’s been fascinating to observe Raheem Sterling’s development under the tactically sophisticated methods of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Having a youngster with such raw talent, who he’s been able to mould and further improve, has seen Guardiola really, especially in recent months, get the best of the enormously gifted 22-year-old.
Manchester City’s pulsating 1-1 draw with Liverpool last weekend offered a fascinating case study as to why Sterling’s such a weapon for the Catalan manager. One key feature of Sterling’s performance was the way Guardiola’s positional play system created brilliant conditions for Sterling to be put into isolation scenarios against his direct opponent, James Milner.
By doing so, this allowed the man who signed for City for a whopping £49 million transfer fee to use his searing pace, plus his unpredictability on the dribble in 1v1 battles, where he so often thrives in, to great effect.
There were two main methods used to enable the Sky Blues’ right-winger to be thrust into these optimal situations. To begin with, City would use the overload to isolate principle, which saw them build up play on the left side and get many numbers around the ball to force Liverpool’s defensive structure to shift to this side, before then launching a diagonal or lateral pass to the isolated Sterling on the right.