Raheem Sterling would easily take home the prize for England’s most criticised player of the last few years. From being labelled a twenty-year-old spoiled brat when he chose to leave Liverpool for Manchester City in 2015 to bringing little or no value to the national team despite his enormous talent, the critics have had no shortage of material to chew on.
Having a tattoo of an assault rifle on his right leg set the stage for a barrage of criticisms heading into the World Cup.
At the tournament proper, he could do nothing right. Despite the widespread praise for the Three Lions as the team marched to the semi-final, Sterling was still singled out for criticism as the player that was the most disappointing. But everyone is entitled to their own opinions, aren’t they?
Of course, criticism is very much a part of the modern game. The media thrives on negative news and the easiest thing for most people to do is to sit on the side and criticise others. Mesut Ozil recently retired from international football with Germany on account of constant negative criticisms.
After losing to Manchester City in their opening game of the season, Arsenal and Unai Emery have been subjected to a barrage of criticisms. From Sam Allardyce (who should know better) to the club’s ex-players like Paul Merson and Tony Adams, the criticisms have been coming thick and fast.
Patrick Vieira would probably be doing the same if he was not a manager himself. Just like Emery, he lost his first match with his new side OGC Nice in the French Ligue 1. This just goes to prove how difficult it can be to take the center stage.
Sterling has spoken in interviews of how the criticism hurts him. He also explained the reason behind the tattoo as it was merely a reference to his father who was shot and killed when Sterling was just two years old. That did little to stop the criticism prompting England manager Gareth Southgate to come to his defence.
Back from the World Cup he resumed training on Monday, August 6. He must have impressed the manager to be selected as the only change to the lineup that faced Chelsea in the Community Shield. He came in for Phil Foden.
His defence splitting run that saw him net City’s first league goal of the new campaign shows a player who is ready to continue from where he left off last season. He ended last season as the club’s second highest goalscorer with 18 strikes in the Premier League.
Last minute strikes against Bournemouth and Southampton earned the team all three points. They also established him as one of the most influential players in the team.
As he enters the last two years of his contract with City, Guardiola has spoken about how important he is to the team and why he will like the 23-year-old to commit his long term future to the club.
“We are delighted with him and would like Raheem to stay.”
“We’ll do our effort to make him feel we count on him. And we do count on him,” he stated in an interview.
His performance against Arsenal may be his best way to answer the critics.