Is Raheem Sterling setting his sights on being England’s ‘Top Gun’ in Russia?
With the confirmation deadline for the World Cup squads fast approaching, fantasy football managers will soon get their first glimpse of player valuations and positional classifications across the many various game formats that will be available to play.
There will be plenty of unknown quantities for managers to assess but one player that we are all familiar with and who needs no introduction is England’s Raheem Sterling.
The Manchester City player was classified as a midfielder in the 2017/18 Official Fantasy Premier League game so it will be fascinating to see if he gets upgraded to a forward under the World Cup variants.
He scored 18 Premier League goals playing predominently as a wide forward in Pep Guardiola’s preferred 4-3-3 system as the Citizens swept aside their title rivals.
Sterling has often been criticized for his poor finishing but he pretty much matched his UnderStat xG of 18.83. However, it was his xG90 (Expected goals per 90 minutes) that really caught the eye and this was far superior to that achieved by the rest of the England squad with the exception of Harry Kane.
His figure of 0.65 wasn’t too far behind Kane who weighed in at 0.78 but it was miles ahead of the remainder where Danny Welbeck performed best, recording a return of 0.44.
Sterling doesn’t have a great goal scoring record for England, having found the net just twice in 38 appearances. However, he may just make a mockery of those statistics in Russia. His improved form for Manchester City has to be noted but it’s his positioning in Gareth Southgate’s new look Three Lions’ line-up that makes him a standout pick at his current odds of 7/1 in the Top England Goalscorer betting market.
Southgate seems intent on playing an aggressive 3-1-4-2 at the finals and Sterling has led the line, partnering Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and more recently Harry Kane in England’s last 3 international friendlies against Italy, the Netherlands and Nigeria.
Game minutes suddenly look far more assured and the value of playing time can never be under-estimated. Vardy, Rashford and Welbeck are unlikely to see too many minutes, leaving Sterling, Kane, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli as the chief protagonists for sharing the England goal burden.
England have a favourable draw and look to have a good chance of progressing to the quarter-finals. Our World Cup Cheatsheet highlights that they are projected to score 5.67 goals in the group stage and this stacks up well against the rest of the heavyweights in Russia.
If England were to make the quarter-finals then defy the odds in a potential match-up against either Germany or Brazil they would get to play 7 fixtures at the tournament, making Sterling a live long-shot in the Golden Boot betting as well.
Kane is the obvious favourite to top the charts for England and he is their guaranteed first choice penalty taker but he suffered from burn-out at Euro 2016 and has struggled with injuries in the latter part of the season so we can’t justify the gulf in odds between the 2 players that we feel will be leading the line for the Three Lions in Russia.
Of course, there is the small matter of a friendly with Costa Rica on Thursday, in which Southgate could throw a spanner into the works by altering his system to accomodate Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson but we feel that he will persist with his bold approach and stick with the 3-4-1-2 and that it why sterling is such a tantalising proposition in this particular betting market.
Fantasy managers should also note that 23 year old Sterling is the most creative player among the England contingent, having recorded an xA90 (Expected assists per 90 mins) of 0.31 over the course of the season.
Sterling may have been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, following his controversial decision to get a tattoo of a gun done so it would be quite ironic if he was too finish the tournament as England’s leading marksman!
Don’t bet against it happening!