Assessing Sterling's excellent start

Raheem Sterling in action for Chelsea
Raheem Sterling in action for Chelsea

Phil Dawkes, BBC Sport

Speaking about his travails during 2022-23, Raheem Sterling laid part of the blame on his diet and the gaining of extra weight that led to hamstring problems in the middle of the campaign.

However, forgoing detail, he says he has now rectified his food intake, with one simple rule - don't eat as much - and the early results are clear to see.

"At the end of last season, I changed a bit of my diet and went to do something a bit different to what I have done before," he said. "I am eating a little bit less.

"Pre-season is a good time to get the body right and I am in a great place."

Liverpool and West Ham have felt the force of that already.

Sterling presented both with a dilemma with his intelligent pairing up with the wing-back on the right (Reece James against the Reds, Malo Gusto against the Hammers), regularly taking up space between midfield and defence for zipped passes his way, making him hard to mark and creating the potential for overloads.

What makes the strategy work to its fullest is Sterling's rediscovered confidence to quickly turn and run at speed with a ball completely under his spell, beating men or drawing them to him to create room for others.

It was Sterling's intelligent run in behind the Liverpool defence and blocked cross that led to the corner from which Chelsea levelled on opening weekend.

He stepped it up another level at West Ham, producing six successful dribbles in the game from 12 attempted (the rest of the Chelsea side combined produced 19), one of which led to the penalty that Alphonse Areola saved to prevent the Blues taking a crucial 2-0 lead.

According to statistics site fbref.com, he produced a game-high 10 progressive carries and seven shot-creating actions at the London Stadium.

Read more about Sterling's promising start to the season