There was a lot for Chelsea fans to be unhappy with as they watched their team suffer a damaging 4-2 home defeat to Wolves on Sunday, but Raheem Sterling bore a large brunt of the frustration. Indeed, the 29-year-old was booed by his own supporters, raising questions about Sterling’s long-term future at Stamford Bridge.
Sterling started the season in eye-catching form, demonstrating the sort of dribbling and finishing ability that made him one of the most effective attackers in the Premier League for a number of years. There was hope that Mauricio Pochettino had restored the England international back to something close to his best.
Over the course of the campaign, though, Sterling has lost his way, culminating in Sunday’s toothless performance against Wolves. The visitors to Stamford Bridge were rarely troubled by the former Liverpool and Manchester City winger who snatched at every opportunity that came his way in and around the penalty box.
Chelsea are a confusing team to watch at the moment. Not so long ago, it appeared Pochettino was putting in place building blocks. The Blues might have struggled for consistency, but there were signs of progression in the way Pochettino wanted them to be more proactive in and out of possession.
Those signs, however, have disappeared over the last few weeks. Chelsea are without a win in their last three matches in all competitions and are playing like a team that belongs in the bottom half of the Premier League table. Sterling certainly isn’t the only Chelsea player under-performing right now, but his struggles are most stark.
There was reason to believe Chelsea had bagged themselves a bargain when they signed Sterling from Manchester City for £49m in the 2022 summer transfer window. The attacker scored an impressive 131 goals in 339 appearances for City and the belief was he would bring some much-needed experience to the Chelsea frontline at a time of transition.
To date, though, Sterling has been a disappointment for the London club. There have been glimpses of his ability to create something out of nothing or knack for taking up good scoring positions inside the area, but Chelsea haven’t been able to build around the England international in they had surely hoped to.
With Chelsea in the midst of a transitional period, they might have no choice but to cut their losses on Sterling if they get the opportunity to. Todd Boehly has already demonstrated his willingness to move on players quickly when they don’t work out (see Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy and Kai Havertz), so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Sterling could also be pushed out.
The way Chelsea are currently trending, Pochettino could leave the club before the summer transfer window with the Argentine admitting he is under pressure following Sunday’s home loss to Wolves. Another manager might have a better idea of how to get the best out of Sterling as a Chelsea player.
Sterling has already played under four different Chelsea managers, though. He joined the club when Thomas Tuchel was in charge before playing for Graham Potter, Frank Lampard and Pochettino this season. None of them have been able to achieve what Pep Guardiola was able to as Sterling’s coach at Manchester City.
Between now and the end of the season, Sterling must show he deserves to remain part of Chelsea’s future. The Blues are enduring a difficult period in their recent history, but a winning team could still emerge from the mess that is currently evident on the pitch. Whether or not a winning Chelsea team includes Sterling remains to be seen.