A hat-trick made Raheem Sterling the star of Saturday in Gameweek 9 of the 2015/16 Premier League season. Manchester City ran riot against a Bournemouth side shorn of centre back and captain Tommy Elphick. Also missing was first choice goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who was injured in the warm up.
The impact has been immediate in the transfer market with Sterling, who had dropped 0.2 to 8.8m on the back of more than 375,000 net transfers out this season, already recording more than 15,000 net transfers in since the Gameweek 9 deadline.
Plenty of Sterling’s shots are in the box, which is good to see, and his attempts hit the target regularly. The former Liverpool player scored with 100 per cent of his attempts on goal this gameweek, but his Shots on Target to Goals conversion rate for the season is only a touch high.
Sterling has managed at least one shot most weeks, except Gameweek 5, when he didn’t play, and Gameweek 6, when he did. His performances during the season have been up and down, with decent underlying shooting statistics in Gameweeks 1, 4 and 7, but other weeks where he was fairly anonymous. Against Bournemouth though there is a step change with six shots – double the amount he had managed in any other individual gameweek.
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While the opposition helped, the key to understanding Sterling’s improved goal threat this gameweek is to step away from the statistics and look at the play. For most of the season the England international has been on the left side of the midfield three operating behind lone forward Sergio Agüero. With the Argentinian missing through injury, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini returned to the 4-2-2-2 formation he used to favour and asked Sterling to lead the line with Wilfried Bony.
Given the new front pairing worked well, with Bony also striking twice and setting up one of Sterling’s goals, it’s quite possible Pellegrini will stick with this arrangement while Agüero is out. If he does, investment in Sterling looks promising. If he doesn’t, the transfers out may begin again soon.