EPL

Lifestyle change has helped ever-improving Sterling – Fernandinho

By Sports Desk November 01, 2019

Raheem Sterling's development into one of the Premier League's leading players is down to a change of lifestyle off the pitch and taking more responsibility on it, according to Manchester City team-mate Fernandinho.

Sterling, 24, joined City to much fanfare in 2015 after breaking into Liverpool's first-team as a teenager, his potential costing the Blues a reported £50million.

While he continued to show signs of his capability in the first two seasons at the club, Sterling also attracted criticism for his lack of composure in front of goal and erratic final pass.

But in 2017-18 he found another level, scoring 18 Premier League goals. He then went on to net 25 across all competitions the following campaign, helping City retain the league title.

He is on track to easily surpass that figure this term, having already scored 13 in 14 games on all fronts, and Fernandinho puts his success down to off-field maturity, having often been the subject of negative headlines as a youngster.

"I think this is maybe a case of us all being human beings," Fernandinho said ahead of Saturday's visit of Southampton. "Sometimes we fail in some actions, sometimes we make some mistakes, that's normal, especially when you are young.

"He's improved outside the pitch. He changed his style of life, style of living, it helps him a lot on the pitch. He's taken more responsibility on the pitch.

"He's a father too. You start to see the world in a different way and you start to see things changing [when you're a father]. I think he's done very well and, as I say, we are so happy for him.

"I think he is taking the chances we create as a team and that's good because the way we play as a team, we create a lot of chances in the box.

"The players know we're going to create chances, he understands it really well. He's improved a lot, the way he finishes, he scores goals and the way he grew up as a player and a person, he got more experience.

"That's good for him and I hope he can continue to grow up and improve more."

At 34, most players would be considering their future in professional football.

And while Fernandinho is not about to set an age target for his retirement, he is no rush to hang up his boots while his body remains able to meet the demands of top-flight football.

"To be honest, I just thank God for giving me a body that I can do this," he added. "Every three days, I have to be mentally ready and improve my body to be ready.

"Of course, I take care of myself, but we have great staff taking care of us behind the scenes which helps because first you have to get the mind ready and then the body and just go on.

"I always say I'll play until my mind will allow me to play. When I feel happy and motivated to play every day, this is important, to train happy and fresh every day.

"So, until I don't feel like this, I will play, but I don't want to say until 37, 38…40; we shall see."

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    Jan Oblak will only consider his Atletico Madrid future once their Champions League run is over.

    The Slovenian goalkeeper has been touted as a possible target for Chelsea after impressing over six seasons with Atletico.

    Ahead of their clash with RB Leipzig on Thursday, Oblak said all his focus was on that quarter-final as Diego Simeone's side attempt to become champions of Europe for the first time.

    Winning the Europa League two years ago strengthened Atletico's resolve to go on and win the Champions League, the competition in which they were runners-up in 2013-14 and 2015-16.

    "This is not the time for that, now it's Leipzig," he told AS when asked about rumoured Chelsea interest.

    "I reflect on the season when the last game is over and hopefully we have three left. Then there will be time to talk. But first, Leipzig. I really want to get through.

    "All of us who are here [in Lisbon] deserve it, but I hope our moment has come. It's difficult to think beyond this game, you have to beat Leipzig and then look at other things.

    "But I couldn't be happier for me, for the team and for all at Atletico if we win this Champions League."

    Atletico's preparations for the game have been disrupted by the positive COVID-19 tests of two players, forward Angel Correa and defender Sime Vrsaljko.

    Oblak said everyone had been "a bit stressed by the tests", adding it was "a shame" that Correa and Vrsaljko had to stay behind in Madrid.

    "I have not spoken much with them, but I have messaged them and they are fine, they do not have any symptoms or any problems," Oblak said.

    The Atletico keeper may be privately glad that Leipzig will be without Timo Werner, the striker who has moved on to Chelsea.

    But he was not willing to say as much, instead suggesting the Bundesliga outfit can find ways to compensate for the loss of the former attacking spearhead.

    "Leipzig with and without Werner are a slightly different team, but they are neither better nor worse," Oblak said. "They have many options, a lot of quality and this year throughout the season they have shown it in the German league and in the Champions League."

  • RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid: Just how big a miss is Timo Werner in Lisbon? RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid: Just how big a miss is Timo Werner in Lisbon?

    It does not exactly take an Einstein-like genius to suggest any team, let alone RB Leipzig, would miss a striker the quality of Timo Werner.

    But when coming up against a team with the defensive quality of Atletico Madrid it appears an even bigger loss.

    Werner opted not play in the remainder of Leipzig's resumed Champions League campaign, however long that may last, after signing for Premier League side Chelsea.

    So, just how big a loss will he be to Leipzig? Well, using Opta data for the Bundesliga and LaLiga in 2019-20, we have compared Werner's stats against Marcel Sabitzer, Patrik Schick and Yussuf Poulsen and analysed Atleti's defensive strength to highlight the size of the task in Lisbon on Thursday.


    TIM-WOE WITHOUT WERNER?

    The raw numbers show Werner was, and prepare to be very shocked here (disclaimer: you won't be), Leipzig's most potent forward this season – yeah, we were surprised too.

    His 28 goals was bettered only in Germany's top flight by Robert Lewandowski (another surprise…), with Schick's 10 the next best of our four chosen Leipzig players. Sabitzer had nine and Poulsen five.

    Of course, that does not tell the full story given Werner played all 34 games, while Sabitzer (32), Schick and Poulsen (both 22) each played fewer.

    However, even when looking at the data per 90 minutes, Werner's average of 0.9 is still comfortably the best, with Schick (0.69) next in line and Poulsen (0.37) and Sabitzer (0.32) well behind.

    Werner's 64 shots on target equate to 2.05 per 90 minutes, which is also better than Schick (1.38), Sabitzer (0.86) and Poulsen (0.74).

    So, not particularly friendly reading for Leipzig fans so far. Things do not get much better when looking at big-chance conversion, with Werner's at 46.15 per cent.

    Schick's 42.86 is not too far behind, but Sabitzer (22.22) and Poulsen (37.5) are some way off Werner's figure.

    A shot conversion rate of 28 per cent means Werner also led in this category. Throw in five braces and three hat-tricks, none of the other three managed any in those areas, and the Germany star's absence is pretty pronounced.

    Werner had eight assists too, with Sabitzer only one back here on seven.


    BREAKING DOWN DIEGO'S DEFENSIVE WALL

    Of course, it is not just Werner's goals that make this such a difficult tie. Even with him involved getting through Atletico's notoriously difficult defence would have been tricky.

    And there is plenty of encouragement for Atleti when looking at the numbers since LaLiga resumed in June.

    In the 11 games Atleti played, their defence was breached just six times and the team kept six clean sheets. 

    In the 27 matches pre-lockdown, the opposition scored 21 times and Atleti registered 11 shut outs.

    Their tackle success jumped up slightly from 61.23 per cent to 63.37, while there were no errors leading to goals in the 11 games since the resumption (impressively there were only two in this category pre-lockdown).

    In terms of shots on target faced, Atleti averaged out at three per game (81 from 27 before the league was suspended, 33 in 11 after the restart).

    For total shots, Atleti faced a few more on average (11.6 compared to 10.6) but there is no doubting Leipzig face a daunting task.

  • Rumour Has It: Man City, PSG eye Liverpool target Thiago Rumour Has It: Man City, PSG eye Liverpool target Thiago

    Liverpool look set to have some major competition in their bid to sign Thiago Alcantara.

    Out of contract at Bayern Munich next year, Thiago has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League champions.

    However, two big-spending European giants are reportedly joining the race for the midfielder.

     

    TOP STORY – MAN CITY, PSG EYE LIVERPOOL TARGET THIAGO

    Manchester City and PSG are interested in reported Liverpool target Thiago, according to Le 10 Sport.

    Sport Bild says Liverpool are prepared to pay £27.1million (€30m) for the midfielder, an offer which could be enough for Bayern.

    However, it also reports the champions are worried a club like City may trump their bid.

    ROUND-UP

    - While it looks like Jadon Sancho may remain at Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United are not giving up on the star attacker. The Mirror reports the Premier League club have put other moves on hold as they chase Sancho.

    - Staying at Old Trafford and Paul Pogba's future is yet to be sorted. Sky Sports reports the midfielder, who is contracted until 2021 with the club holding an option to extend it for a further year, is expecting talks over a new deal after United's Europa League campaign ends.

    - After crashing out of the Champions League in the last 16, Real Madrid have been expected to strengthen. However, Marca reports Madrid have told players there will be no new signings.

    - With Ismaila Sarr linked to Liverpool, Watford are seemingly holding firm. The Evening Standard reports Watford are demanding £40m for Sarr, who has also been linked to Wolves and Crystal Palace.

    - Arsenal and Roma could be close to a swap deal. Nicolo Schira reports the clubs are in advanced talks about a deal that would send Lucas Torreira to the Serie A club and Amadou Diawara to Arsenal.

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