Chelsea may be fearing painful Sterling mistake after Barcelona snub

Raheem Sterling on his move to Chelsea

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As Raheem Sterling trudged off with a frustrated expression painted across his face against Manchester United on Saturday, both he and Chelsea could be forgiven for questioning if they made the right decision to join forces this summer. The £47.5million signing from Manchester City has struggled to live up to his reputation as a regular Premier League goalscorer this season and the Blues are paying a heavy price.

The 27-year-old was hooked after 79 minutes and replaced by Armando Broja, who made a difference by winning a late penalty that was converted by Jorginho. Sterling, however, has not scored in the Premier League since netting in the 2-1 defeat at Southampton on August 30 when Thomas Tuchel was still in charge.

Sterling has never scored against United in the 24 games he has faced the Red Devils and there was rarely a moment where he looked like he would end that barren run at Stamford Bridge. The forward lacked composure in the final third and found it difficult to link up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mason Mount.

Chelsea head coach Potter refused to lay the blame at Sterling’s feet for his concerning run in front of goal, insisting that the winger has been hampered by having to play out of position and called on his team-mates to help him end his drought in front of goal.

“It’s something we have to look at not by zooming into one person but as a team,” Potter said. “We can do better but if we do better as a team then individuals will benefit from that so that’s where the work is.

“Raheem has the flexibility, ability and quality to play in a number of positions. It’s not straightforward with us losing the players we have so we’re trying to constantly find the right balance and the right solutions but he can help us in a number of positions.”

But there is a notable lack of zest in Sterling’s movement at the moment, something that was evident in his game during his peak years at City. Even after being handed a rest against Brentford in midweek, it looked as if the winger could have done with another day off, such was his sluggish movement off the ball.

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Compare that to Ousmane Dembele – a player at the top of his game with Barcelona who Chelsea pursued for much of the summer, only to decide against signing – and there may be a notable sense of regret involved. The 25-year-old scored one and created a hat-trick of assists in the 4-0 drubbing of Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to cap a fine individual display.

Not only have Chelsea shelled out a huge sum for a player whose best years may be behind him, they snubbed a figure of Dembele’s ability when he was available on a free transfer. Considering his 11 goal involvements in 15 matches this season with four goals and seven assists, that appear to have been an error in judgment from the club’s recruitment team.

Potter may have faith that Sterling will prove to be worth his weight in gold in the near future. But other players such as Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku were ditched after struggling for goals – and Chelsea’s patience could soon wear thin if his goalscoring woes continue.

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