The cloud that gathered over Joe Hart during Euro 2016 has followed him to start of the new season. But while the goalkeeper suffers on the Manchester City bench, a club and country teammate looks revitalised.
Raheem Sterling, like all of the Three Lions squad in France, had little to smile about over the summer. However, the arrival of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium appears to have given the former Liverpool man a new lease of life.
The 21-year-old turned in a promising first Premier League performance of the season against Sunderland. He then followed up with an even better display in the Champions League first play-off leg against Steaua Bucharest, prompting many to wonder if a dominant campaign is afoot.
Nine goals and four assists in all competitions represented something of a patchy return for Sterling last season considering his hefty £49m price tag. By laying on two goals in the 5-0 drubbing of the Militarii though, he is already some way towards swaying the detractors.
Aside from his early production at the sharp end of the pitch, the 26-cap international is also putting up numbers elsewhere that indicate a stellar season is on the horizon.
Most prominent of those is his dribbling, which has experienced a sizeable spike under Guardiola despite the Spaniard only taking charge of two games.
Against the Black Cats, Sterling’s six completed runs represented 14 per cent of his entire league total for City last season. Then, in Romania, the QPR youth completed another four, putting him 30 per cent of the way to matching his 2015/16 Champions League tally.
Running with the ball and creating goals were both central to Sterling’s play at Liverpool the last time he truly impressed. Across his final two campaigns with the Reds he registered 13 all-competition assists and 217 total dribbles.
That said there remains one area of his game that still requires improvement, as the £50m-man has managed just three shots on goal during his 180 minutes of action thus far.
If he can become more of a threat in front of goal, then Sterling’s play will be a huge weapon in City’s bid to reclaim the Premier League title; a feat we currently rate as a 21/10 chance.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.