Graham Potter has already led Chelsea to top spot and qualification in their Champions League group, meaning he’s in the privileged position of being able to tinker with his tactics and team selection without any significant consequences ahead of tonight’s clash with Dinamo Zagreb.
It’s an opportunity for the Blues to re-find their form after a catastrophic 4-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion on the weekend, their third league game in a row without a win.
The English manager was very honest in his breakdown of the weekend’s loss, acknowledging he’d made a mistake by playing Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic as wing-backs – a role they clearly weren’t capable in, as the Blues found themselves 3-0 down at half-time. It also marked the sixth game in a row that the Englishman has blanked.
Now, though, is the perfect time for Potter to bring the 79-time England international out of the spotlight, with the boss questioned on the £50m arrivals recent form by journalists in his latest pre-match press conference.
Sterling hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge – scoring four and assisting two in his first eight games for the club – but since his assist against AC Milan, he’s failed to register a goal contribution in the last six outings.
The Jamaican-born forward suffered a torrid afternoon in Sussex as he was deployed at left-wing back, he lasted only 63 minutes and picked up a yellow card before being replaced and subsequently received a dismal 5.89 match rating from WhoScored, he recorded the lowest amount of touches by any starting outfield Chelsea player with 36 and lost possession 17 times, the most of any player on the pitch.
GOAL journalist Nizaar Kinsella took to Twitter after the game to claim that Sterling had been “struggling lately”, whilst the Daily Express’ Joe Krishnan slammed his defensive output as “non-existent.”
Highlighting just how much of a rut he’s found himself in, he picked up an 8.51 and 7.39 rating in consecutive matches back in August against Leicester and Southampton respectively.
It seemed like a sign of things to come for Sterling after the Leicester game with Garth Crooks paying homage to the new star in SW6.
“I thought Sterling was starting to lose the fizz he had gained having escaped Pep Guardiola’s straitjacket.
“However, I needn’t have worried. Sterling got Chelsea out of jail having gone down to 10 men against a Leicester side who have their own fair share of problems,” he stated.
Sadly, the 27-year-old hasn’t been able to reproduce his early form which is why he should play no part from the off tonight and such displays has led to BBC pundit Pat Nevin to question his place in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad:
“I’m watching Raheem Sterling right now and I’ve said that Graham Potter has got the best from every player since he has been there – with one exception.
“If he keeps playing the way he is right now, he’s not even a consideration for the World Cup,” Nevin said.
It’s a mammoth claim to make considering the £200k-per-week star has been one of Southgate’s go-to men, previously starting every game as the Three Lions made it to the Euro 2020 final, showing just how much his form has suffered, it really is time for Potter to finally axe the four-time Premier League champion from his starting XI, starting tonight.